When it comes to the H1B lottery if you still think it's just a matter of filing in March and the rest of it is merely a waiting game, then, you cannot be more wrong. The H1B application process starts at the end of the previous year of your application, namely right now. We've summarized the whole H1B lottery timeline and it comes with a note of caution. Hope this will help you with 2023’s H1B lottery preparation.
H1B Preparation Timeline
Confirm with your employer whether they will sponsor you or not. If you are still looking for a job in December, make sure to get a resounding “yes” from HR. Some of them will say “H1B sponsorship depends on your performance”. It is not uncommon to get such an answer from HR during an interview. However, if in December, they still can’t make a promise, it basically means you will miss next year’s H1B application. If getting an H1B is very important to you, there is no better time to consider other employers.
If you are working for a small company or a company that has no prior experience in sponsoring foreign workers, you should be actively involved in the process. In mid-January, you can start “the talk” with your supervisor, mainly to figure out if they already have a reliable legal representative. The legal representative you use is very important. Yes, inexperienced lawyers can make mistakes that ruined your chance for the H1B lottery. Be cautious about this and start early. In that case, if there are any additional supporting documents required, you will have sufficient time to prepare them.
Usually, around the 21st, your employers should start their USCIS account registration process. If they have sponsored others before, this is also the time to confirm whether their old account is still active. Also, by this time, you should have confirmed the legal representative you’d like to work with.
Your lawyer should start the process and pay the $10 application fee for you on the USCIS platform, as well as “submit” the application for H1B on your behalf. During this time (usually from March 1st – 18th), remember to check in with your employer and make sure they finished the online process for you.
The deadline for online application is 12:00 PM EST on March 18th this year. After that, USCIS will start the lottery and randomly choose 85,000 applications to grant H1B visas. On the last day of March, remember to tell your employer to check the status for you. If on the USCIS platform, your application’s status changed to “selected”, you are one of the lucky ones. However, this does not mean you’ve officially got the H1B visa.
Early April - End of June:
Once you are “selected”, you’ll have 90 days to file all required documents. The deadline is crucial here. If you missed it, your application will be automatically rejected. Other common circumstances to watch out for:
If your legal status is about to expire in April, please make sure to prepare all necessary documents ahead of time and submit them as soon as you are “selected”.
If you are still a student when being “selected”, you can’t proceed with the filing. You must receive your diploma before the filing process. You’ll have to graduate before June 30th, otherwise, you will have to wait for another year.
If you are on an F1 visa and using OPT, you are entitled to use the so-called Cap-Gap exemption, while fulfilling the following two conditions: 1. Your OPT ending date cannot be later than March 30th; 2. Cap-Gap will only be activated after the official filling for H1B. Once you file for H1B, your legal status will be automatically extended to Sep 30th, which is one day before your H1B is activated.
July to Sep 30th:
You may have to go through the RFE. We have an article that goes in-depth about what is RFE, the common reason for RFE, and how to deal with it. Read more about RFE.
There are two ways to activate your H1B, namely “change of status” and “port of entry”.
If you choose “change of status”:
-After winning the H1B lottery, your status will automatically change from F1 to H1B on October 1. At the same time, an approval document I-797A is received and an I-94 is attached at the bottom.
If you choose “port of entry”
-You need to leave the country after October 1 but before your OPT expires. Then, enter the U.S. on the new H1B visa. The date of entry is the official H1B effective date. If you choose this method, you will receive the approval document I-797B, not I-94. Some people have a longer OPT period that they can use, choosing “port of entry” to activate their H1B and prolong the period of legal stay.