Tech Groups Propose Changes to H-1B Lottery System

Tech Groups Propose Changes to H-1B Lottery System
August 22, 2023

Recently, the federal government announced it would update the H-1B lottery system. Biden’s administration has planned to overhaul the H-1B visa program for some time. Though the administration intends to remedy identified issues, lobbying groups have voiced concerns about the revisions. As a result, several tech groups have fought for the right to have some say in the updates.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), it has received nearly 800,000 applications this year. The agency warned that this significant increase includes signs of fraud, which it expressed concerns about in previous statements. As such, this increase and the indications of fraud are no surprise, as the H-1B lottery system is a new development.

This system is an update from the previous one, which required applicants to pay fees in advance and have lawyers retained for assistance. The lottery changed the process by instructing employers to pay $10 for an application. They could complete a petition if the lottery selected their application to move forward. 

However, fewer barriers to apply encouraged more employers to submit applications. This increased cases of multiple employers creating entries for the same person. The USCIS allows such cases if the applicant received multiple legitimate job offers from separate companies. Otherwise, the agency considered this arrangement as fraud.

A new proposed change would simplify registrations: one per person. No longer could the same jobseeker have numerous entries in the lottery, significantly improving their odds. According to the proposed changes, selected applicants with multiple sponsors may choose their employer when completing their petition. Until then, the applicant must work for the company that sponsored the winning petition.

The coalition of tech groups lobbying for this change represents a large swathe of American business giants. However, they have encountered resistance, as opponents do not want their influence to dictate the changes. These opponents pointed out that several tech companies have perpetuated most of the fraud detected by the USCIS. As such, this proposal may let these companies game the system by codifying their behavior.

Regardless of the tensions between the two groups, the USCIS has stood firm about its decision to run a second lottery. According to the agency, many employers failed to complete petitions for the initial lottery winners, so it must draw additional applications to meet its 85,000 cap. Biden’s administration will spend this time deciding whether to update the lottery system. Should it make changes, the administration must open the decision for public comments. The new rules may finalize by early next year and apply to 2024 H-1B selections.

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