On April 13, USCIS advised the public that it used a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select petitions to meet the FY2016 cap.  USCIS also announced that it received nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period. (Last year, 172,000 H-1B petitioners were received.) What was the process and what happens next?

Before running the lottery, USCIS must complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period. This means USCIS assigned temporary numbers to all of the cases that were properly received at its two USCIS service centers; those numbers were then used in two lotteries, one for advanced degree cases and the second for regular cap cases. Advanced degree cases were segregated, and composed an initial lottery for 20,000 advanced degree visa slots. Advanced degree petitions not selected in that initial lottery were then grouped with the second lottery held shortly afterwards for the 65,000 regular cap visa slots.

USCIS will now begin notifying petitioners of selection in the form of a receipt notice. First, petitioners will receive advanced degree cap receipts. Shortly afterwards, regular cap case receipts will be mailed.  We can expect USCIS to take about a month to announce that all of the receipts have been mailed. However, petitioners cannot confirm selection or rejection until a receipt is received or the H-1B package is returned. How USCIS determines how many cases to accept for adjudication has been a matter of some controversy. Apparently, USCIS determines that number based on its estimate on the number of applications it will likely deny.

Then adjudication begins. USCIS has already announced that it will begin adjudication of premium processed cases no later than May 11, 2015. Last year, regular processed cases were adjudicated anywhere from two to five months after filing.