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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L1 vs H1b - path to green card

This is part 2 of our H1b vs L1 visa comparison. H1b vs L1 part 1 for more details.

In this post, we are comparing the path to permanent residency (green card) of H1b worker compared to L1 worker.

L1 vs H1b to green card

Both H1b and L1 visas are temporary non-immigrant visas. But people entering the U.S. can then apply for permanent residency (green card). However, H1b to green card can be very different from L1 to green card. Typically, H1b workers obtain green card through permanent visa categories called Eb2/3. And some L1 visa workers follow the same path as H1b workers. But there is a sub category of L1 visa called L1a. These workers typically obtain green card through a category for international managers called Eb1c. Eb2/3 and Eb1c process are vastly different. Eb1c also takes the shortest time to obtain. No wonder the demand is becoming high.

L1 visa internally have 2 sub-categories L1A and L1B. L1B typically follow the same options as H1b visa holders. i.e., applying through the employers for Eb2 or Eb3. And L1A in some cases apply for Eb2 and Eb3. But in some cases their employers apply for them in Employment category 1, commonly referred to as Eb1C. People who qualify as “international managers” typically go through Eb1C. So, the primary path is Eb2/Eb3 or Eb1C. There are other Eb1 categories, but the qualification for those positions are very high and few people actually qualify.

The difference between these categories are significantly different in terms of the process and also the time duration. In both Eb2 and Eb3 categories, the employers have to follow a lengthy process to prove that the positions that are being filled by foreign nationals could not be filled by American workers. This is proved by ensuring a salary according to the prevailing job market is paid and also recruitment process that run over a few months to try to hire a U.S. worker. Eb1C process skips all these steps and hence more quicker. That’s the reason the demand has also increased in recent years. For example, Eb1C visas issues to Indians has doubled in the last 2 years compared to years prior.

Attribute H1b to Eb2/Eb3 L1A to Eb1c
Prevailing wage determination Sponsoring Employer should get approval from Dept. of Labor (DOL) on the salary to be paid to the foreign national. DOL verifies that the foreign worker wage and working conditions are similiar to comparably employed U.S. workers Waived
Job Advertisements The employer is required to advertise the job on it’s own website, national & local newspapers and DOL’s job bank Waived
American First The employer should try to recruit a U.S. worker for the advertised position atleast for 60 days. The resumes received, interviews conduted should be clearly documented Waived
U.S. market standardization of qualifications Market labor test ensures job descriptions, qualifications and salary are normalized to US market. USCIS regulations also govern the job description and qualifications. Employer primarily defines the qualifications for the employee. Comparison to U.S. market standards doesn’t happen because there is no labor market test.
Wait times 10+ years for employees born in countries like India and China. Immediate for other countries Immediate for everyone including Indians.

Eb1C data obtained from USCIS

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H1b vs L1 visa

The second part of H1b vs L1 comparison covers path to green card.

L1 vs H1b The graph is plotted using publicly released USCIS data.

Assumes 25% of dependents enter the workforce. More details about H1b vs L1

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