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H-1B Visa Lottery Changes: International Student Chances Increase by 16%

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If you’re interested in pursuing your MBA in the United States, chances are you’re not just thinking about school—you’re thinking about your career opportunities beyond school.

If you’d like to gain work experience in the United States after graduation, you’ll need to obtain a temporary worker visa, also known as an H1-B visa.

Historically, the lottery system for H1-B visas has been competitive. While it still is, recent changes favor US advanced degree holders, increasing their odds of winning the H1-B visa lottery. If you’re considering an MBA in the United States, this is good news for you, as the long-term career potential for international MBA students is more promising than ever.

Here’s a rundown of the H1-B visa lottery process, changes, and how they can benefit you if you decide to pursue your MBA degree in the United States.

What’s the background?

Every year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) makes 85,000 H1-B visas available. Up until this year, this has included openings for 65,000 applicants with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and 20,000 openings for those with a master’s degree or higher. To obtain an H1-B visa, a prospective employee must find a US company that will sponsor them for employment, and the company (employer) must submit an H1-B visa petition on their behalf.

Over the past several years, the demand for H1-B visas has exceeded the supply, and as a result, the USCIS has implemented a lottery system to award H1-B visas. With the number of petitions submitted in recent years, the odds of obtaining an H1-B visa have been less than 50 percent. However, thanks to a “lottery reversal change,” applicants with a US advanced degree will have better odds this year.

Previously, the USCIS conducted a lottery to award visas to 20,000 US advanced degree holders first. Those who weren’t chosen joined the undergraduates in the lottery for 65,000 visas.

This year, however, the USCIS is changing the order of the lotteries. The larger 65,000 lottery will go first and will include all H1-B applicants (both graduate and undergraduate degree holders). The unselected applicants with a master’s degree will then get put in the 20,000-quota lottery for another chance at selection.

By reversing the selection process, the USCIS is expecting to allocate 5,340 additional H-1Bs to individuals with US advanced degrees. This change means those with master’s degrees will have an estimated 16 percent higher chance of obtaining an H1-B visa.

Here’s why it’s good news

With the new changes, US advanced degree holders have an edge in the H1-B visa lottery process. For international students interested in pursuing their MBA degree in the United States, the H1-B visa lottery change is critical, since they have a greater chance at gaining work experience in the United States once they graduate.

If you have aspirations of working in the United States after completing your MBA program, the H1-B is your ticket. With an H1-B visa, you can extend your stay for up to six years. Not only that, but as part of the “portability” provision, you can transfer your H1-B visa to a new employer, further enhancing your potential for US work experience (and allowing you to keep your H1-B visa status).

Embark on your MBA journey

If you’re considering an international MBA program in the United States, now’s the time to start researching programs. We’re here to help with that. To find all the resources you need to start your journey, sign up here today!