The H-1B visa lottery for this year concluded at the end of March, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announcing that they received over 780,000 applications, setting a new historical record and marking a 61% increase compared to last year.
However, just recently, the USCIS has expressed concerns over potential widespread fraud, as many applicants used different companies to submit their applications, thereby increasing their chances of being selected.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration has stated that it has evidence indicating collusion among dozens of small technology companies, aiming to fraudulently increase the likelihood of their foreign employees being selected for the H-1B work visa.
In response to these allegations, the immigration agency has initiated an investigation into the matter.
H-1B Visa Lottery Sets New Record High
The total number of H-1B visa lottery applications reached a staggering 780,884 this year, marking a significant increase of 61.4% compared to the previous fiscal year’s 483,927 applications.
While surpassing the 500,000 mark was expected, breaking the 780,000 threshold is truly astounding. Out of these 780,884 electronic registrations, the immigration agency conducted the first round of lottery selection, selecting 110,791 applications to meet the H-1B visa cap.
According to the data, the first-round selection rate was merely 14%, setting a new record low compared to last year’s 26.4% rate.
Several factors have been identified as possible reasons for these outcomes:
1. Convenient registration process: Since 2020, the USCIS has implemented an online electronic registration system, leading to a significant annual increase in H-1B registrations.
2. Low registration fees: Despite reports of a potential fee increase to $125 to address revenue concerns at the immigration agency, the fee hike has not yet been implemented, and the current $10 registration fee fails to effectively deter H-1B abuse.
3. Relaxed lottery scrutiny: During the lottery selection phase, the immigration agency does not review employer qualifications or the authenticity of job positions.
Data Suspected of Fraud, USCIS Initiates Investigation
In addition to the astounding 780,000 registrations, the immigration agency has also revealed that there were 408,891 valid lottery applications this year, with multiple employers submitting applications for the same beneficiary, accounting for over half of the total!
Most of the duplicate applications were submitted by a few select companies. Approximately 96,000 individuals submitted multiple entries, totaling around 408,000 applications, averaging four per person. This clearly indicates the continued prevalence of H-1B abuse.
Although this is not technically illegal, companies submitting applications must demonstrate that they will provide genuine employment opportunities to the beneficiaries if they receive the visas.
If a company that obtains a visa quickly outsources an employee to a third party or terminates an employee holding the visa to facilitate their transfer to another company, it could constitute fraud.
The US government is currently refusing to disclose the names of the companies involved, citing an ongoing investigation.
Abuse of H-1B Visas: How Will Qualifications Be Handled?
A USCIS official has expressed the intention to revoke the lottery qualifications of beneficiaries involved in the abuse of H-1B visas in order to address the current misuse.
Currently, fraudulent companies that have been discovered are being referred to federal law enforcement agencies, while beneficiaries found to have participated in visa fraud may face the cancellation of their H-1B qualifications.
However, the final outcome of these cases will depend on further notifications from the immigration agency following their investigations.
The initial validity period for H-1B visas, which allow individuals to work and reside in the United States, is three years. After three years, it is possible to apply for an extension for an additional three years.
Upon reaching the maximum six-year period, under specific conditions, it may be possible to apply for further extensions. Many employees, during their H-1B visa tenure, simultaneously begin preparing for EB-2/3 green card applications to facilitate a transition to permanent residency in the United States after the expiration of their six-year work visa.
Is "Haidilao" on the Horizon this Year?
If the investigation yields enough rejections, the government may conduct a second round of lottery to reach the congressional-mandated cap of 85,000 visas.
The alleged abuse of the H-1B visa system is a consequence of reforms implemented by the Trump administration, which have been retained by the Biden administration.
According to previous official announcements by “Haidilao,” the formal announcement is expected in July. Everyone can look forward to the official news at that time.
Over the years, the pressure to secure employment-based immigration status in the United States has increased, leading to a rise in the number of H-1B visa applicants.
However, there are prerequisites for participating in the lottery. Applicants must first find an employer willing to provide sponsorship to be eligible for the lottery.
According to data from Myvisajobs, most of the top 10 companies that sponsor H-1B visas are in the technology sector. Companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, and Apple are among the major sponsors. Technology-related positions naturally dominate.
Coupled with attractive salaries and promising career prospects, positions in the technology industry and at prominent tech companies have become popular choices among international students.