The American Immigration Lawyers Association has sued the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, seeking more transparency in the H-1B visa lottery.

Key points:

  • The suit claims that AILA has been denied public information that should be made available under the Freedom of Information Act, including information related to the acceptance or rejection of petitions for the computer-generated lottery, how petitions are selected, how many petitions are selected, the tracking of visa number usage and the distribution of H-1B visa numbers.
  • AILA contends that the denial of information renders it unable to disseminate important information to its members and the general public about the H-1B process. A response from USCIS is pending.

Background: The lawsuit seeks information about the increasingly competitive H-1B visa lottery, which is conducted every year the number of petitions exceeds the Congressionally mandated caps. This year, more than 236,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions were filed in the first five days of the filing period, making 2016 the fourth consecutive year that USCIS has run the lottery.

The caps are set at 65,000 visas for individuals with undergraduate or equivalent degrees and 20,000 visas for individuals with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university.

AILA’s complaint said the organization sought information about the H-1B lottery by filing FOIA requests, but that many of the records they sought were either withheld or heavily redacted. AILA said USCIS’s response “precludes informed consideration” as to whether its lottery processes accord with DHS implementation regulations and other laws.

BAL Analysis: AILA is seeking greater transparency in the H-1B visa lottery, which has become an annual fixture in immigration law as an increasing number of foreign nationals seek high-skilled work opportunities in the U.S. BAL will follow progress on the lawsuit and update clients on any significant developments.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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