USCIS received a record 758,994 eligible registrations for the FY 2024 H-1B cap season – a 60% increase over last year’s eligible registration pool. The agency selected 110,791 beneficiaries to reach the H-1B quota of 85,000, for an overall selection rate of 14.6%. During the FY 2023 cap season, the overall selection rate was 26.9%. USCIS reports that 408,891 registrations were submitted on behalf of individuals who were the beneficiaries of multiple registrations, raising concerns about potential misuse of the H-1B cap registration system. This has prompted USCIS to begin investigations and to prepare referrals to law enforcement in cases of suspected fraud.
USCIS announced today that it received 758,994 eligible registrations for the FY 2024 H-1B cap season – a record number of registrations and an increase of 60% over last year’s eligible registration pool. The agency selected 110,791 registrations to meet the annual H-1B quota of 85,000, meaning that registrants had a 14.6% chance of selection, far lower than last year’s 26.9% selection rate.
USCIS normally selects more registrations than needed to meet the annual quota, to account for cases for which no petition is ultimately filed, as well as cases that are denied, rejected, withdrawn, or revoked. However, this year’s selection rate was markedly lower in comparison to previous years, when selection rates ranged from 26 to 42%. USCIS has said that it selected fewer registrations in the lottery because of higher demand for Chile/Singapore H-1B1 visas, which are carved out of the overall H-1B quota, and because it expected a higher rate of petition filings from employers whose registrations were selected in the cap lottery. USCIS did not disclose the number of registrations selected against the H-1B cap exemption for individuals with U.S. advanced degrees.
A closer look at the surge in registrations
There are several reasons for the dramatic increase in the number of registrations for the FY 2024 season. At least some of surge was attributable to normal increases in demand in a persistently tight labor market. But the most significant contributor was a marked increase in beneficiaries for whom more than one registration was filed. According to USCIS, some 408,891 registrations were submitted for individuals who benefited from multiple sponsors submitting cap registrations on their behalf, thus increasing their odds of selection in the H-1B lottery. Though there are circumstances in which multiple registrations are permissible, this year’s surge has raised concerns about potential misuse of the H-1B registration system, prompting USCIS to begin investigations and in some cases prepare criminal referrals to law enforcement.
Multiple cap registrations and related enforcement
USCIS rules restrict the circumstances under which a single beneficiary can be registered for the cap lottery by multiple sponsors. For each registration, the sponsoring organization must attest that it has a bona fide job offer for the registration beneficiary and has not worked with another individual or entity to unfairly increase the odds of selection in the cap lottery. There are circumstances in which a single foreign national may legitimately be registered for the lottery by multiple entities – for example, where the foreign national has received bona fide job offers from several unrelated employers. Multiple registrations become problematic, however, when sponsors do not make bona fide job offers and are attempting to unfairly increase a beneficiary’s chances of selection in the lottery.
There are many unanswered questions about the trend in multiple registrations this cap season and in USCIS’s plans to address that trend. However, in press reports today, agency officials indicated that they had evidence of collusion between “several dozen” small technology firms that allegedly sought to secure large numbers of lottery selections, petition for winning beneficiaries, then place those beneficiaries at third-party worksites or terminate their employment to allow them to take up H-1B employment with other employers. It is not yet clear whether USCIS’s enforcement efforts center on the entities that submitted the registrations or whether they may extend to entities at which affected H-1B workers are placed or to which they transfer. Employers who are presented with opportunities to hire or receive placements of individuals originally sponsored by little-known or seemingly questionable entities should contact their immigration counsel as soon as possible.
Will USCIS conduct a second cap selection lottery for FY 2024?
The low rate of lottery selection has caused significant concern in the business community, with many employers left unable to meet their H-1B employment needs. It is not yet clear whether USCIS will run a second lottery for cap employment in FY 2024. It is unlikely that USCIS will make a decision on a second lottery until July at the earliest, after the petition filing period for selected registrants closes. During the FY 2021 and 2022 cap seasons, USCIS conducted multiple selections to reach the cap, but did not do so during the FY 2023 season.