Employers Turned Down 25,000 H-1B Lottery-Winning Slots — So There Will Have to Be Another Lottery

So much for the tech worker shortage

By David North on August 1, 2023

Though the USCIS press release did not state it this way, the agency has, in effect, announced that 25,000 or more winning H-1B slots this year were blanks. H-1B foreign workers must have at least a bachelor’s degree, many are in computer-related fields, most are male, and most come from India and China.

Blanks (or fraudulent) applications were awarded to would-be employers who said, in effect, after winning the lottery, “thanks but no thanks”.

The annual ceiling on new H-1B slots is 85,000; in the first lottery 110,000 winning tickets were allocated, but in more than 25,000 cases the winning employers said they did not want the slots, so on July 27 the agency announced it would have a do-over, another lottery to see if the agency could use all the slots available. In at least one previous year the agency had to run a third lottery.

All of this brings up the policy question: How can the industry say with a straight face that there is a shortage of tech workers when it rejects at least 23 percent of these applicants who have won the lottery? The media is not alert enough to pick up that question.

The H-1B lottery is rigged in such a way that the employers who reneged on the “need” for such workers are neither named nor shamed for their behavior; they are not held accountable in any way. One might expect that such employers, after fooling Uncle Sam once, would be banned from the program for a year or two, but this does not happen.

Another option would be to make the employers pay a special and substantial fee — say $50,000 — to enter the lottery, losing that much were they to reject a winning slot, and getting the money back only if they lost the “random selection”, the neutral word used by USCIS. The actual fee for entering the lottery is a non-refundable $10.

For background, see our previous posting on this year’s process.