In the last 24 hours we have learned a bit more about the decision of the Department of Homeland Security that it had to run a second lottery in the H-18 program on the questionable grounds that there was a need to use all of the 85,000 slots for new H-1B visas this fall.
Apparently there was a substantial reduction in demand caused by the virus crisis.
We have been told that there is a not-yet published, in-house legal memorandum saying that the agency had to follow that course. The Center for Immigration Studies will file a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the text of such a memo and other details on this action.
We have heard an estimate that 15,000 to 20,000 of the H-1B visas were placed in the second lottery; we have seen the Breitbart estimate of 14,500 of, apparently, the 65,000 ceiling for new H-1B slots for those candidates who do not necessarily have a master's degree. There is another ceiling of 20,000 for H-1B candidates carrying advanced degrees.
We are using an estimate of 18,000 extra slots overall that were subject to the second lottery. We also gather that there will be no third lottery.
What does all of this mean?
It certainly shoots holes in the oft-made industry argument that there is a shortage of U.S. workers with the needed skills.
Further, there is a real difference between non-selection in the lottery process and giving up a guaranteed H-1B position; the second is much more significant than the first. Let's think of a party you want to attend, in a nice mansion 20 miles from your home. It is a disappointment not to be invited, but suppose you were invited, you dressed for the occasion, and hired a limo to take you there, only to discover five miles from the mansion that all the roads were closed because of a sudden storm. That would be a real downer.
In other words, the non-use of an H-1B slot, secured by luck, work on the application, legal and USCIS fees, and all the waiting involved, must mean that the company making that decision was facing either serious financial difficulties or the realization that there are plenty of U.S. workers out there, or both.
The lack of a third lottery, if true, will probably leave the program with 3,600 unused H-1B positions this year. If only about 80 percent of the first round choices were used, why would more than 80 percent of the second round be used? And 20 percent of 18,000 is 3,600.
Will that happen? Will DHS tell us if it does? We will see.