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When the number of applications exceeds the annual cap for H1-B visas, the USCIS runs a lottery to decide who gets it and who doesn't. But how long do they usually wait until they decide to run the lottery? Let's suppose that in the first week, the cap is not reached. Do they grant the visas to this first batch (considering all other criteria are met, of course) or do they wait a bit more? What if it's not reached in the second week and so on?

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When the cap is not reached within the first 5 business days, no lottery will be run. All applications will be accepted and processed (but not necessarily approved of course).

Any applications received after that will be processed until the cap is reached. The day after the cap has been reached, applications will no longer be accepted.

On the other hand, if more than 85,000 (65,000 + 20,000) applications are received within the first 5 days, no more applications will be accepted and a lottery will be held a few days later. All applications will be treated equally, whether received on day 1 or day 5.

  • What is the significance of 65,000 + 20,000? Surely you're not just showing off your addition skills... so where do these numbers come from? :) – Flimzy Mar 29 '14 at 1:43
  • 65,000 "regular cap" and 20,000 "advanced degree cap". I'll expand my answer tomorrow – Philippe Leybaert Mar 29 '14 at 3:28
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    @Flimzy 20000 is the additional (over the regular 65000) cap for applicants with US advanced degrees. – littleadv Mar 29 '14 at 3:57

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