H-1B is assigned a regular cap quota of 65,000 for Bachelor's degrees and 20,000 quotas for advanced degrees (Master's degree or higher) in each fiscal year. If the total number of applicants exceeds this quota, the “lottery system” is operated in which applicants are randomly selected through a computer lottery system. The Trump administration previously tried to change the method of selecting applicants in the order of high-wage annual salary as a way to reduce the number of H-1B petitioners (employers) and applicants (employees) to protect the U.S. labor market. However, the method of drawing H-1B applicants in order of annual salary has been postponed until the end of this year with the Biden Administration. The recent legislative notice includes endowing USCIS with the authority of the final choice of the selecting system to USCIS. In view of this progress, next year's H-1B lottery is likely to be adopted in the order of high-paid salaries.
The first step of H-1B process is “electronic pre-registration”, in which an employer (a sponsor company) enters the information of the employees expected to be hired as H-1B in the USCIS’s system. This year's pre-registration period runs from noon on March 9th (Eastern Time) to noon on March 25th. Employers can register employees currently staying overseas as well during this pre-registration period as long as they can start to work from the 1st this October upon the H-1B approval. It is also possible for employers to enroll college students who are expected to graduate this May. H-1B qualifications, such as a Bachelor's degree, only need to be obtained until the employer file a H-1B petition to USCIS. Unlike the H-1B applicants with Bachelor Degree, applicants with Master or Advanced Degree must hold the degree at the time of pre-registration. This is because they are eligible for a benefit that increases the probability of the lottery when drawing randomly. Master's or higher degrees that are eligible for this benefit will only be awarded by the U.S. accredited universities. In other words, the advanced degrees obtained from overseas are not eligible.
Note that employers are prohibited from registering the same employee multiple times to increase the chances of being drawn in a random lottery. However, from the employee's point of view, registering in the system through several different employers is not an issue.
When more than 65,000 applicants have registered during the pre-registration period, a random lottery will select applicants who can submit H-1B applications. Notification of applicants selected through this lottery process will be notified by March 31. Employers will file H-1B petitions for these selected employees for 90 days from April 1st.