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Playing the H-1B Lottery Is Worth the Gamble

21 Feb

The annual H-1B quota is perennially oversubscribed.  In fact, in the first week that new H-1B petitions are allowed each year, the number of H-1B petitions received is more than twice the number that could be approved under the quota for the entire year.  This less than 50 percent chance has led some employers to question whether they should even “play the lottery.”  The answer is “yes,” and here’s why.

  1. Talent Acquisition – Currently employers are struggling to meet organizational needs for key professionals, particularly those employed in STEM fields.    The economy shows little sign of slowing down.  Filing H-1B petitions for key candidates now may be the only way to fill critical gaps in your workforce.
  2. Talent Retention – If your organization employs an F-1 student pursuant to Optional Practical Training, that student’s work authorization is time-limited.  You must act to retain the student within your organization, or you may lose him or her to a competitor who filed an H-1B petition in an effort to lure the student away.  Further, F-1 students in STEM fields may have as many as three bites at the H-1B apple without experiencing a gap in work authorization.  Trying each year increases the chance of ultimate success.
  3. Little or Nothing to Lose – The government filing fees for an H-1B petition are not insignificant, but it’s all worth it if the petition is selected in the H-1B lottery.  And if the petition is not selected, the government returns the filing fees.  Ultimately the cost on rejected H-1B petition is just the cost of case preparation and filing.
  4. Capitalize on Investment – If your company employs an F-1 student, the company has likely invested significant resources in his or her training and grooming for advancement within the organization.  Compared to the cost of turnover and loss of the investment to date, the risk of losing out on an H-1B number is peanuts.

I could offer a number of clichés here.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You win some, you lose some.  But the bottom line is that your organization will likely lose more by not “playing the lottery” than by moving forward with a strong, well-prepared petition.  After all, if possibly not getting an H-1B number is bad, definitely not getting one – which happens if you don’t file – is worse.

Because the one-week window for filing new H-1B petitions is approaching in the first week of April, employers should act now to identify all H-1B candidates and contact their Foster immigration attorney to get started with case preparation.  Potential H-1B candidates include F-1 students, L-1B employees, and L-2, H-4, and E spouses currently employed based on EAD work authorization.