Here’s another edition from “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that empowers people around the world to rise above the limits and pursue their dreams,” said Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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My two co-founders and I are on OPT and VOTE OPT. We are all from India and considering the H-1B lottery.
How can we structure our immigration compliance? Any advice for planning?
— Tenacious threesome
Thank you for contacting me with your questions. Before I dive in — and for a little context — here’s some background on the annual H-1B raffle.
H-1B lottery 101
In 2020, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented a new electronic registration process for the H-1B. That started with a new process in which employers register each H-1B candidate online and pay a $10 registration fee. Before 2020, employers were required to submit a completed H-1B petition for each candidate – a very costly and time-consuming process.
The simpler and cheaper electronic H-1B lottery process is great, but resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of lottery registrants. This year, USCIS received 483,927 registrations, an increase of 57% from 2021. Each year, 85,000 H-1B visas are available in the lottery – 20,000 for those with a master’s degree or higher and 65,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree. Since Congress has not increased the number of H-1B visas available in the lottery, the odds of being selected in the lottery dropped to about 23% in 2022, from about 32% in 2019.