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How available (or not) are H-1B visas in 2024?

by | Jan 9, 2024 | Immigration & Global Mobility Practice

We have bad news and good news regarding the popular H-1B U.S. work visa availability for the fiscal year 2024.

What is the H-1B visa?

This is a nonimmigrant work visa that has two essential functions. Firstly, it allows U.S. companies to hire skilled foreign workers to perform jobs that are in demand or otherwise difficult to fill with domestic workers. Secondly, it’s a vehicle for international students studying in America to keep working here after graduation.

Unsurprisingly, these visas are highly coveted, so the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sets an annual cap distributed via a lottery. As such, people can only apply for an H-1B visa once per year.

As of this writing, the annual cap is 65,000 regular visas, with an additional 20,000 visas earmarked for foreign workers with a master’s degree or higher.

The bad news

The USCIS has announced that it has already received sufficient H-1B visa applications for the fiscal year 2024. Applicants should start receiving notices soon stating if they received a visa in this year’s lottery.

Are you thinking about applying for the next round of visas? The earlier you submit your application, the better. The start of the fiscal year is October 1, when the next batch of capped visas will become available, so we recommend applying as soon as April.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, applicants should consider subscribing to the USCIS H-1B program email updates for further announcements.

The good news

A theoretically unlimited number of H-1B visas are available each year for jobs exempt from the annual cap. Exempt visas apply to jobs at nonprofit universities, nonprofit entities affiliated with institutions of higher learning and nonprofit or government research organizations.

Exempt H-1B visa jobs have several benefits, including faster processing times, less uncertainty and no nail-biter lottery to worry about.

There are a few downsides to exempt visas. Qualified employers may not necessarily want to commit to the effort needed to be a sponsor. Also, competition for these jobs can be fierce. Finally, nonprofit jobs are often poorly paid. Take the time to consider local cost-of-living expenses before committing to a job that may not support a reasonably comfortable lifestyle.

Importantly, anyone working for an H-1B cap-exempt employer who changes jobs to a company that isn’t exempt runs the risk of becoming subject to the cap after the fact.