2nd lottery h1b

COVID-19 impact: FY21 H-1B quota unlikely to be reached in the first lottery, second round possible

H-1B cap per year is 85,000, with 20,000 reserved for those who complete their advanced degree in the US

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may go for a second lottery to fill the H-1B quota as firms shy away from filing petitions on the back of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

This, experts said, has also come at the back uncertainty over immigration reforms.

The window for filing H-1B petitions opened on April 1 and companies were given three months to file petitions for those who were selected by the lottery.

This was the first time pre-registration for the H-1B lottery was undertaken. The newly implemented H1-B Electronic Registration Process mandated employers to register with the USCIS by March 20, after which the lottery process starts. After the lottery, the agency announces the potential beneficiaries who can start the application process.

If it were any other time, the 65,000 cap would have been reached within a few days of filing or in this case by June positively. However, as businesses take a hit due to the pandemic and firms become more cautious, the cap is unlikely to be filled by June, said Sheela Murthy, founder and President, Murthy Law Firm.

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“Sentiment among firms is a mixture. Some are continuing hiring of H-1B workers. But approximately 20 percent of them are saying we don’t know what the future holds,” Murthy pointed out.

For instance, if 10 persons of a firm were picked in the lottery by USCIS, petitions are now currently being filed only for eight of them. This could be because the company lost a major contract and could lose more in the coming months due to COVID-19.

Murthy said, “So many of them are not going to file by June. USCIS may open up and have a second cap season.”

Rumours about Presidential proclamation suspending non-immigration visa such as H-1B in the coming days and rising unemployment rates have not helped the cause either.

As the pandemic intensified, thousands of H-1B workers and over 40 million Americans lost their jobs. Murthy said her company now has a dedicated team helping laid off foreign workers change their status to B2 (visitor status) or F1, for those who want to continue their education.

According to reports, the new executive order could potentially ban non-immigrant visa including H-1B, H2, J1,L1 and maybe even F1 for anywhere between 60-90 days or up to 180 days.

Multiple experts Moneycontrol spoke to pointed out that this trend would impact IT services firms and US tech companies.

“The ripple effect is not on just the tech companies and consulting firms, it will actually impact federal to state governments to companies across the US that are relying on these H-1B workers to help engine their products,” Murthy added.

If the situation were to continue, companies will transition to the remote working model or look at other countries.

Murthy stated it would hurt the US economy. Reports suggest that an increase in H-1B visas could create an estimated 1.3 million new jobs and add around $158 billion to US GDP by 2045.

H-1B cap per year is 85,000, with 20,000 reserved for those who complete their advanced degree in the US