H-1B Not Selected: Understanding Your Next Steps

Updated on April 12, 2024

Applying for an H-1B visa and participating in the competitive H-1B lottery can be a nerve-wracking experience. If you’re not selected for the fiscal year (FY) 2025, it’s disappointing but remember, other paths can still lead to work opportunities in the United States. Understanding the H-1B registration process is the first crucial step. For those not selected, consider alternative visa options such as the O-1 visa for individuals with extraordinary abilities or the TN visa, available to Canadians and Mexicans under NAFTA. Other possibilities include the L-1 visa for intracompany transferees, the E-3 visa for Australian nationals, and the J-1 visa for exchange visitors. Each option has its own requirements and may suit your specific situation. Consulting with an immigration attorney can help you navigate the best alternative, aligning with your qualifications and career goals.

30 Second Recap:

If you’ve missed out on the H-1B lottery for FY 2025, don’t be disheartened. Understanding the process is key. Explore alternative visas like O-1 or TN, or consider extensions like OPT. An immigration attorney can guide you. Also, remember to plan for future opportunities, keeping track of cap-exempt employers and deadlines.


Understanding the H-1B Lottery and Registration Process

Navigating the H-1B lottery involves a clear understanding of the registration, the selection process, and the legal parameters. Knowing the timeline and the next steps you can take is crucial if your registration is not selected.

H-1B Lottery Explained

The H-1B lottery is a randomized process used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to select enough registrants to meet the annual caps of 85,000 visas: the regular cap of 65,000 and the advanced degree exemption of 20,000. It comes into play when the number of registrations exceeds the visa cap.

Registration Submission and Selection

The H-1B electronic registration process typically begins with a minimum of 14 calendar days each fiscal year for employers to submit registrations for prospective employees. Employers create online accounts with USCIS and follow instructions to submit each registration. Post the registration period, USCIS conducts the lottery and notifies the selection results.

Need help with your H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa process is complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re struggling to understand all of the moving parts, let Stilt help. Our team of H-1B visa experts can help you make sense of all the eligibility requirements, documents, and the application process.

Cap-Exempt Employers and Special Cases

Certain categories of employers are defined as cap-exempt. This includes institutions of higher education, non-profit research organizations, and government research organizations. These employers can petition for H-1B visas without being subject to the annual numerical cap and may not require participation in the lottery process.

Alternatives for Non-Selected Applicants

If you’re not selected in the H-1B lottery, consider alternatives like Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students, extensions of STEM OPT, and the Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Other visa categories such as L-1, TN, E-3, and J-1 visas may offer work authorization in the U.S. In some cases, pursuing a green card may also be an option.

An immigration attorney can be an invaluable resource throughout the H-1B process. From ensuring that the Labor Condition Application (LCA) and Form I-129 are accurately filed with the Department of Labor, to advising on premium processing options—legal counsel can guide employers and applicants through the complexities of immigration law and H-1B petitions.

Post-Selection Process and Career Opportunities

After an H-1B visa petition is not selected in the lottery, it’s imperative to consider alternative paths to maintain or gain employment status in the United States. This section outlines the immediate steps and potential opportunities available to navigate post-selection scenarios.

Next Steps After Selection

If your H-1B petition was not selected, consult with an immigration attorney to evaluate next steps. Your options may include extending your stay through Optional Practical Training (OPT) if you’re an F-1 student, or considering other employment visas. Ensure compliance with USCIS regulations to maintain lawful status.

STEM OPT Extension and Tech Industry

For F-1 students with degrees in STEM fields, a STEM OPT extension grants an additional 24 months of work authorization. The tech industry often sponsors H-1B petitions due to the sector’s high demand for specialized knowledge. Maximizing your OPT can be a strategic move to gain valuable experience and increase future H-1B lottery chances.

Exploring Other Employment Visas and Statuses

You have options beyond the H-1B visa, such as the O-1 visa for individuals with extraordinary abilities, the TN visa under NAFTA for Canadian and Mexican nationals, the L-1 visa for intracompany transfers, the E-3 visa for Australian citizens, and the J-1 visa for exchange visitors. Each of these visas has specific eligibility criteria, which an immigration attorney can help you assess.

Planning for the Next Fiscal Year

As you plan for the next fiscal year, consider employers who are cap-exempt from the H-1B visa lottery. Universities and non-profit organizations, for instance, can sponsor an H-1B visa at any time. Preparing documentation and maintaining current visa status are crucial for the June 30 deadline to submit petitions for the upcoming cap season. Keep track of admission or transition windows to align with the fiscal year’s timeline for the H-1B visa process.

Options If Not Selected in the H-1B Lottery

Each year, the harsh reality is that many prospective H-1B applicants sponsored by employers do not get selected when the lottery selections are conducted. This can create immense stress and uncertainty for international workers in the United States on temporary visa status like F-1 OPT or STEM OPT.

One person outlined their friend’s difficult situation: “They weren’t selected for the H-1B lottery and were told by the employer to explore other options like the STEM extension, going back to school, or marrying a U.S. citizen. Their OPT is up in June so they’d have to leave the country then.”

When facing this crossroads, here are some of the main paths forward that were discussed:

The STEM OPT Extension

For those on OPT after graduating with a qualifying STEM degree, applying for a 24-month extension can provide additional time. As one commenter noted: “You can absolutely do a STEM OPT extension based on a prior degree! I did this myself. It buys you two more years.”

However, the job must be directly related to the STEM degree field for this option.

Pursuing a New Degree Program

If eligible, beginning a new course of study by obtaining an I-20 to start another degree program allows maintaining F-1 status. The difficulty is having a funding source and strong academic plan.

Travel Then Reapply Next Year

Take advantage of the 60-day grace period after OPT ends to make future plans and travel. One option is returning home and having the employer re-enter you into the H-1B lottery the following year if they are willing.

The Marriage Green Card Path

While somewhat awkwardly framed, getting married to a U.S. citizen does open up the possibility of a marriage-based green card process. Multiple people acknowledged this as a potential route for long-term couples impacted by the H-1B rejection.

Whichever direction is chosen, most advised against quitting one’s job too early before visa expiration to avoid perceived negative implications.

Ultimately, while not getting selected is hugely disappointing, planning and taking action on alternative paths is important. An immigration lawyer consultation can also evaluate specific circumstances and identify the most appropriate fallback option for each situation and long-term goals.

Need help with your H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa process is complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re struggling to understand all of the moving parts, let Stilt help. Our team of H-1B visa experts can help you make sense of all the eligibility requirements, documents, and the application process.

Frequently Asked Questions

In navigating the complexities of the H-1B visa program, it’s essential to understand what steps you can take if not selected in the lottery and your options moving forward.

What are my options if I am not selected in the H-1B visa lottery?

If your application is not selected in the H-1B visa lottery, you can consider alternatives such as applying for a different visa type, seeking employment with an H-1B cap-exempt employer, pursuing further education in the U.S., or exploring work options in other countries.

How often can I apply for the H-1B visa lottery?

You can apply for the H-1B visa lottery annually during the designated registration period, usually starting in early March. If not selected, you are eligible to register again the following year.

What is the process after being selected in the H-1B lottery?

Once selected in the H-1B lottery, you must submit a complete H-1B visa application to USCIS. This includes filing Form I-129 along with requisite fees, labor condition application, and supporting documents within the specified period.

In case of H-1B lottery rejection, what happens to my current visa status?

A rejection in the H-1B lottery does not affect your current visa status. You can remain in the U.S. under your valid current visa’s terms or until it expires. However, you must maintain your nonimmigrant status independently of the H-1B application process.

Is there a cap on the number of H-1B applications one can submit?

There is a strict limit on the number of H-1B applications one can submit per fiscal year. However, an individual may only submit one registration per fiscal year. Duplicate registrations for the same beneficiary in the same year are prohibited.

What alternatives exist if I don’t secure an H-1B visa?

If not securing an H-1B visa, consider other visa categories such as the L-1 for intra-company transfers, O-1 for individuals with extraordinary ability, or student visas if you are eligible for further study. Alternatively, you may explore employment-based permanent residency options.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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