Huge Increase in Questionable H-1B Lottery Applications

147% jump in duplicate registrations

By David North on May 1, 2023

Some of the self-imposed complexities of the current lottery for the H-1B (high-skilled) foreign worker program came to light last week, thanks to USCIS and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). As usual, there are far more requests for these slots than the congressionally mandated ceiling of 85,000.

USCIS, I think for the first time, told us not only how many applications were filed this fiscal year (something reported in earlier years), but also the number of duplicate applications.

The totals for this year and last follow:

for Lottery*
2023 474,421 309,241 165,180 127,600
2024 758,994 350,102 408,891 110,791

* These numbers are expected to be reduced to 85,000 because some employers will not use all their winning selections.

There are two kinds of multiple registrations, one legitimate and the other questionable. In some instances, a given applicant may have several different employers (unknown to one another) bidding for his services. In other instances, an employer will jack up the number of registrations knowing that many will be rejected.

As the reader can see, the number of single registrations has grown by a modest 13 percent, while the number of duplicates has risen by a thunderous 147 percent.

It is the second figure that attracted the WSJ’s attention. The lede was:

The Biden administration says it has found evidence that several dozen small technology companies have colluded to increase the chances that their prospective foreign hires will win a coveted H-1B visa for skilled foreign workers in this year’s lottery.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that awards H-1B visas, said it has found that a small number of companies are responsible for entering the same applicants into the lottery multiple times, with the alleged goal of artificially boosting their chances of winning a visa.

USCIS is investigating, WSJ reports, but will not reveal the names of the companies involved.

We wrote above that this problem was partly “self-imposed” because this fiscal year the government made it much easier and less expensive to file for H-1Bs and has now, to use a Shakespearean term, been hoist with its own petard. For comments on the new regulations by my former colleague Robert Law, see here.