With 199,000 petitions received, the majority of people for whom an H-1B was filed won’t be picked in the lottery and thus will have to consider other possible visa options. Every year around this time, it often feels like we are trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. It is very frustrating when the H-1B is truly the right visa status for the foreign national but due to Congress’ limit on the visa numbers we struggle to think of other options. Still, although it may be difficult, it is not impossible for many people to find other ways to come to the US to work if they do not get picked in the H-1B annual lottery. As mentioned, it is always advisable to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss all possible H-1B alternatives. And if there are truly no other options, there is always the possibility to try again next year in the H-1B lottery.
For those not picked in the lottery, we know the news can feel devastating. Although there is not much consensus these days on what immigration reform should look like, we think it’s safe to say that the H-1B lottery system is something that most people agree needs reform. President Trump discussed his disdain for the system when he signed a recent executive order, Buy American and Hire American: "Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery—and that's wrong."
The executive order itself is incredibly vague when it comes to H-1B reform. The order does not have any immediate impact on H-1Bs, including any improvement to the lottery system. It simply calls for the secretary of state, the attorney general, the secretary of labor, and the secretary of homeland security to “suggest reforms” to the system. Most substantive changes to the H-1B program would require legislative action or rulemaking and would take time to go through the necessary processes so at this time the executive order has no actual effect on the current system. Thus, foreign nationals and their potential employers must still look to the above alternatives if their H-1B petitions were not picked in this year’s cap.