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No Sign of Decrease in H-1B Cap Lottery Registration Numbers Despite Tech Layoffs

A top-down photograph of a table with multiple laptops and other workspace items such as chargers, coffee, and headphones.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Bloomberg Law reported at the beginning of this month that there’s no sign in the H-1B registrant numbers slowing down despite large tech company layoffs of H-1B visa holders. 

 USCIS’ online registration was introduced in 2020. The annual cap is set at 85,000 H-1B visas, but registrations have been high above this amount and only increasing in recent years. The first year saw roughly 274,000 registrants, which soared to 483,000 last year. Bloomberg reporter, Andrew Kreighbaum, attributes these numbers to a low barrier of entry into the lottery, less effort in the registration process versus filing a full petition, and a “labor crunch for talent” in tech. 

As mentioned in a past blog post, USCIS has proposed to significantly increase the H-1B cap lottery entry fee. This proposed fee schedule is currently in the comment period that has been extended from its original 60 day window.

Registration numbers will continue to balloon year to year because a large number of companies that lose out on prior cap lotteries will continue to submit their candidates for an H-1B visa. 

While big tech layoffs are causing stress in the H-1B visa employment field, there’s the continual and more common stream of recent graduates/current students with student employment authorization, “Optional Practical Training (OPT)” and F-1 student visas who are a big portion of the cap lottery hopefuls. And while big tech/Silicon Valley companies are facing layoffs, the same cannot be said for other industries that have an increasing need for tech-focused talent within their companies. 

As with many facets of immigration, the H-1B cap lottery landscape is complex, nuanced, and crowded. H-1B cap season for immigration attorneys is like tax season for accountants. Except, after crossing the finish line there is still a likely chance of being turned away.