I Didn’t Get My H1B Visa In The Lottery – What Are My Options?

Every fiscal year, USCIS receives well over the allotted 85,000 applications for the H1B nonimmigrant visa, usually within the first few days. This year they received 180,000. Even if you have a handful of master’s degrees and years of experience, it’s possible that your application won’t get picked. If this happens, do not despair. Instead, consider some other options available for those who didn’t get an H1B in the lottery.

  • OPT and STEM OPT Extensions. If you are an F-1 student, you can find out if you qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT,) which allows you to stay an extra 12 months as an employee in your job field. You can get authorized for OPT either before or after you finish school. Keep in mind that of you choose pre-completion, you will only be permitted to work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Post-completion OPT allows you to work a full-time schedule.

If your degree is in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field, you can apply for a STEM OPT extension, which lasts 24 months.

  • Get a higher degree. Use your F-1 visa status to pursue a master’s degree or a Ph.D. Getting a higher degree may make you eligible for the Master’s Exemption through the H1B. Every year, there are 20,000 H1-B visas set aside for people with advanced degrees
  • Work with a company that is “cap exempt”. Some employers are able to avoid the H1B annual cap. Generally, these include institutions of higher learning, public schools, certain non-profit corporations associated with a learning institute, and entities devoted to government research. If these employment areas sound interesting, you may want to look to them for work and avoid the H1-B lottery altogether.
  • Apply for an O-1 visa. The O-1 visa is open to people who show exceptional ability in a certain field. These areas of employment are not just relegated to science and mathematics. People with unique talent in athletics, film and television, and the arts may qualify as well. The biggest hurdle with the O-1 visa is that it is truly created for the best of the best – you must be able to demonstrate how your contribution has earned you a spot in the small majority of expert-level talent in your chosen career.
  • If all else fails, try again. You can re-apply when the lottery opens up again in the next fiscal year. It may be discouraging, but you should remember that you’ve made it this far by working hard, getting educated, and giving your all. Don’t let this setback stop you.

Talk to an Immigration Attorney

The competition is fierce for the H1B lottery. USCIS explains everything needed for the application, but you might want to talk to an experienced attorney before submitting yours to ensure you’ve done everything right. The immigration attorneys at Udall Shumway, PLC can look over your application and answer questions, give you advice on how you might better your chances, or help you determine the best alternative option for your situation.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding My H1B Visa, or other Immigration Law matters, please feel free to contact Phil D. Ortega at 480.461.5330, log on to udallshumway.com,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.