H1b lottery - 3 out of 5 petitions will be rejected

USCIS is going to start accepting new H1b visa applications for fiscal 2018 in a week. Labor Condition Approval (LCA) is a prerequisite for applying H1b visa. LCA data indicates robust demand for this year. We estimate that,

3 out of 5 new H1b petition will be rejected in the lottery.

Every year USCIS starts accepting new H1b visas starting in April. Before applying for the H1b visa, sponsoring employers have to get LCA approved. USCIS doesn’t make the actual H1b data public. But LCA is published regularly by DOL. Hence LCA can be used as an approximate proxy to predict the number of H1b petitions this year.

Despite H1b becoming an election issue, no law changes happened for this year’s quota. So our estimate for this year is 230,000 (+- 10%) petitions for the available quota of 85,000 visas. That roughly means 3 out every 5 new H1b visas would be rejected. Here is the data that we publish by tracking LCA data published by DOL.


The above data is frequently updated. Hence, the estimation might vary as we get closer to the lottery. H1b visa became an election issue in the last year’s presidential election. So far in 2017 there has been several H1b bills introduced in congress. And more are being announced every passing week. Since it takes a while for a bill to be passed into a law, there is not sufficient time left to make changes for this years quota. Though legally there are no changes, employers who depend on H1b already are making adjustments. For example,

  • Infosys, a top H1b dependent announced it won’t apply H1b for junior positions this year
  • TCS another major H1b user, mentioned that it reduced the number of new H1b visas even last year

But not all of the employers may react the same way. It’s certain that some new regulation may come into effect next year. So this year may be the last chance for H1b dependent employers . So employers may try to grab as many H1b visas as possible. How all of this shake out can be known in 2 weeks. But to some extent we can estimate by tracking LCA. Demand has been strong for the last 3 years. With economy doing well it may be the case this year too. Here are the historical trends about the H1b lottery.


LCA data indicates robust demand. In fact, the last update indicates some uptick in LCAs comparable to last 2 years at this time. Whether this is just random or becomes a trend we will see in the coming days. You can follow us on H1b 2018 trends.

Some notes on how we estimate the numbers. LCA is not just required for new H1b visas. It’s also required for extensions, transfers and amendments. LCA data does not call out the purpose. So we do some custom analytics to map LCAs that probably belong to a new petition. A single LCA can be used for multiple H1b petitions. And a single LCA application can be used for new H1b, extensions etc. We do not track the data that granular. So that could also affect the estimates. We also don’t do a fine grain analysis of normal petitions vs advanced degree petitions. While we do our best to help our readers with estimates, it may not be accurate. So our estimates have risks and hence do your own due diligence.

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