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Fewer People Enter H-1B Visa Lottery After U.S. Cracks Down on Those Exploiting the System

H-1B visa fraud alive and well amid anti-abuse efforts (Credits: The Register)

Lottery bids for visas designated for highly educated workers have seen a remarkable drop of nearly 40% this year, according to authorities. This decline is attributed to efforts aimed at curbing abuses in the system, where some individuals submitted multiple, often questionable applications to unfairly increase their chances of selection.

Major technology firms relying on H-1B visas for their employees expressed concerns as the number of bids surged in recent years, making it increasingly challenging for their staff and potential hires to secure visas through the random lottery system.

H-1B visa lottery bids plummet (Credits: Fast Company)

To address the perceived fraud and misuse, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced measures this year to limit each applicant to one entry, regardless of the number of job offers they held.

The total number of entries for this year’s lottery dropped to 470,342, down from 758,994 last year. Remarkably, the number of workers applying remained relatively stable, indicating an outstanding decrease in the number of multiple applications submitted.

USCIS Views Decline in Applications This Year as Indicator of Reduced Attempted Filings

The surge in bids from 2021 to 2023 followed the elimination of the requirement to submit bulky paperwork by mail, with applicants only needing to pay a $10 electronic registration fee.

However, this change inadvertently allowed companies and individuals to inundate the system with multiple applications. USCIS highlighted cases where individuals submitted bids for numerous job offers, such as one person who applied for 83 positions in 2022.

USCIS interpreted the decrease in applications this year as a sign of fewer attempts to manipulate the system for unfair advantages. The H-1B visa program, established in 1990, targets individuals with bachelor’s degrees or higher in fields facing shortages, remarkably in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

However, critics argue that the program allows companies to exploit workers by offering lower wages and fewer labor protections. Infosys, an Indian tech outsourcing firm, topped the list of H-1B employers in 2023, followed by major tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Meta, and Google.

US immigration body cracks down on fraud in H-1B lottery system (Credits: Business Today)

Meanwhile, U.S. college graduates, eligible for the Optical Practical Training visa, faced challenges competing against applicants with multiple bids.

USCIS Director Ur Jaddou emphasized the agency’s commitment to reforming the lottery to ensure fairness and prevent abuse. The changes were prompted by concerns about the gaming of the system and collaborative efforts among companies to secure visas for the same applicants.

While many welcomed the reforms, critics, including the AFL-CIO, argued that more comprehensive changes are needed. They advocate for awarding visas based on criteria like highest wages rather than through a random lottery, a proposal previously supported by former President Donald Trump.

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