H-1B Lottery News — More than Half the Winners Say ‘No Thanks’

It is well known that many employers routinely file for more workers than they need

By David North on October 12, 2023

What do you call a lottery in which the majority of the winning tickets are offered to, but declined by, the applicants?

Maybe the word is “nottery”.

We have just learned that in order to meet the annual congressional ceiling of 85,000 new H-1B slots, USCIS has selected 188,400 applications in its first and second lotteries this year. That means that more than 2.2 applications were approved for every one actually used. That’s an excess of more than 103,000 applications.

That there would be a “need” for a second lottery was reported here earlier, but the number of rejected approvals appeared smaller than it does now. It is well known that many employers routinely file for more workers than they need as the usual result of the lottery is to give the employer roughly one worker for every three filings.

This may mean that employers who said that there was a shortage of workers lied more than 103,000 times (or perhaps changed their minds many months after filing), or that there was a combination of lying employers and sloppy USCIS procedures.

The website CPTDog.com, whose article we cited above, writes:

It is worth (sic) to note that, the second lottery of FY 2024 didn’t excluded (sic) petitioners selected in the first round, meaning that besides detected frauds that were removed by the lottery, all petitioners entered the second lottery even if some were already selected and might even be approved. [Emphasis in original.]

That sounds like it was written by someone whose second language is English.

The inclusion of the earlier winners in the second round is puzzling. The reason for including them must relate to perceived administrative costs to the government, not a matter of equity. Winning a second time does nothing for the second winner nor does not winning the second round involve any punishment.

The decision to include the earlier winners in the second round — if CPTDog.com is correct — suggests that the government would rather appear to be stupid than to take the trouble of eliminating the first round winners from the second lottery.

This decision could be viewed in a more cheerful light: The government does not care enough about the reputation of the H-1B program to eliminate the earlier winners from the second lottery or, more likely, it is not thinking through the matter at all. There are not many of us pointing out the folly of a two- or three-round lottery and how it undermines the industry notion (shared by the administration) that there is a shortage of high-tech workers that requires their importation.

How to avoid this problem? The answer is simplicity itself. Currently, the non-returnable fee for entering the lottery is $10. Make that one-way fee $5,000 or more and collect $515 million or so each year for USCIS. Many an employer would not file extraneous H-1B petitions if he knew he would lose $5,000 every time one was awarded to him that he did not want.