The H-1B visa category is open to foreign nationals who hold a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent with a job offer that requires a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent (making it a “specialty occupation”).

Unless a petitioning employer is exempt, H-1B petitions are subject to an annual numerical cap of 85,000 (65,000 for petitions for holders of bachelor’s degrees and 20,000 for holders of U.S. Master’s degrees). The filing window opens on April 1 of each year, with employment beginning on October 1, the first day of the fiscal year. When the number of petitions submitted exceeds the cap, the petitions are entered into a random lottery. Any petitions not selected in the lottery are returned and unsuccessful applicants must wait until the next April to apply again or find an alternative route to employment authorization.

Over the last four years, the 85,000 petition Cap has been reached within the first week of the filing period.  For FY 2017, approximately 236,000 H-1B petitions were filed during the first week, leaving only a 36% chance of selection in the Cap lottery.

Prospective H-1B employers must file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor prior to submitting the H-1B petition to the U.S. immigration service.