U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services saw an 11% increase in the number of U.S. advanced-degree holders selected in this year’s H-1B lottery, according to agency figures.  

This year was the first in which the order of the regular and advanced-degree lotteries was reversed as part of the agency’s efforts to give advanced-degree holders better odds of being selected. And while the effect was not as great as USCIS initially expected (the agency initially estimated it would see an increase of up to 16%), it was nonetheless a sign that USCIS’s plan worked as intended. “We are fulfilling the President’s mandate under the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order to ensure H-1B visas are awarded through a more meritorious selection process,” USCIS said on Twitter.

Even before this year’s change, advanced-degree holders were becoming an increasingly large percentage of H-1B holders. Media outlets cited USCIS data in reporting that for fiscal year 2020 advanced-degree holders made up 63 percent of petitioners who were selected in the lottery. That compares with 56 percent of those selected in fiscal year 2019.

The reversal of the lotteries was part of the USCIS regulation titled “Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens,” which went into effect April 1. For fiscal 2020 H-1B cap cases, USCIS only implemented the lottery reversal portion of the rule, and delayed implementation of the electronic registration component. The Department of Homeland Security’s regulatory agenda released this week indicates that the agency plans to propose charging a fee for H-1B registrations, as well as continue to make changes to eligibility and wage protection.

BAL Analysis: Advanced-degree holders have always had better odds than bachelor’s-degree holders in the H-1B lottery, but never more so than now. Employers may wish to consider this when planning for the fiscal 2021 H-1B cap season. BAL will continue to provide updates about changes to the H-1B lottery as more information about new regulations become available.   

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

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