Thursday, April 16, 2015

Breaking Down the H-1B Petition Lottery and Cap Gap

By Xiao Lu
World Education Services

The H-1B visa filing period for fiscal year 2016 opened on April 1, and the 65,000 cap was reached within a week. The 20,000 cap for H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degrees exemption was also reached, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). WES Student Advisor is here to answer some of the questions we see most often about the H-1B petition process.

1) What is the process for the H-1B petition lottery?

April 1- April 7, 2015
Filing period
From April 1, USCIS starts accepting H-1B petition applications. During this week, USCIS keeps accepting applications even after the cap has been exceeded. USCIS stops accepting applications after April 7.
April 8-May 11, 2015
From April 8, the computer-generated lottery process begins. That is to say, the petitions that are approved – 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption category – are chosen randomly.  Applicants who hold U.S. advanced degrees can increase their chances of being selected by enrolling in both the general and advanced lotteries.
May 11- May 25, 2015
Premium applications processed and checks cashed
USCIS starts processing the applications of those who applied for the premium processing service. Premium applicants receive their petition within 15 days of the lottery closing; a $1,225 premium application fee is returned to your checking account if USCIS fails to process your file during that time. Using the premium processing service does not increase your chances of being selected in the lottery.

If you don’t use the premium processing service, your check status can hint at your lottery result. USCIS starts cashing checks for those who were selected in the lottery as early as May 11. If, by the end of May, your check still hasn’t been cashed, there’s a good chance you didn’t get the lucky draw.

You can track your application status by logging into the USCIS website and inputting your 13-character receipt number.

May 26- Sept. 30, 2015
Standard applications processed
After going through the premium applications, USCIS starts processing the standard ones. Most petition results are issued between June and September. Keep in touch with your human resources staff or lawyer while awaiting the results. USCIS may request further documentation from you or your employer.

Oct. 1, 2015
Your H-1B takes effect automatically on Oct. 1 – if your application is approved.

2) How can I apply for a cap gap?

The period after an F-1 student’s status and work authorization have expired, and before the start date of their approved H-1B employment, is known as the cap gap. Note that your OPT status will not extend automatically – you have to apply for the cap through your school.

If your OPT expires before Sept. 30, you can go to your school’s international student office and request an OPT extension (after you’ve filed your H-1B application). Remember to bring a copy of your H-1B application documents with you, including your receipt.

However, if your H-1B petition is not chosen in the lottery, your OPT will end immediately. USCIS will offer you a 60-day grace period, after which time you must leave the U.S. During the grace period, students are not authorized for employment.

After Filing an H-1B Petition…
Report to international student office for cap gap extension
OPT extended until Sept. 30
H1-B petition gets approved
H-1B petition gets rejected
Your H1-B takes effect on Oct. 1
Your OPT ends immediately; you’re able to stay in the U.S. only for a 60-day grace period

It’s stressful, it’s complicated – unfortunately that’s just how the process goes. But remember – there are 85,000 international students who win the lottery every year. That’s quite a few! Best of luck to all the students who applied for the H-1B petitions this year.


  1. When will be the next lottery round held to apply for it in time?

  2. I think this can not be done in time!

  3. Migrating to a country is a big decision, and a thing not to be taken lightly. Especially a country like USA where there are numerous opportunities in almost all of its states

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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