No H-1B Visa Lottery Necessary for Institutes of Higher Education, Affiliated Non-Profits, and Government Agencies for Research

By Jessabelle M. Koppelman, Esq. and Julie Oliver-Zhang, Esq.

If you have the right employer sponsor, you can apply for an H1b visa anytime of the year and have no need to win a spot in the H-1B lottery. Every year, USCIS sets aside 85,000 H-1B visas that are subject to the lottery process. But did you know that some organizations are exempt from the cap? Qualifying organizations do not need to undergo random selection to compete for limited H1b visas. Indeed, federal law allows certain organizations to forego the lottery process, specifically:

  1. Institutions of higher education;
  2. Non-profit organizations related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education;
  3. Non-profit research organizations; and
  4. Government research organizations.

See INA § 214(g)(5)(A)-(B).

Determining if your organization is exempt from the H-1B visa cap can be tricky. Let’s take a look at some of the fundamental characteristics of institutions of higher education and related or affiliated non-profits.

Institution of Higher Education

USCIS relies on the Higher Education Act of 1965’s definition of “institution of higher education.” Under the Act, key characteristics of a college university are:

  • Admits students with a certificate of graduation from a school that provides secondary education, or the equivalent;
  • Authorized in the State to provide an educational program beyond secondary education;
  • Provides an educational program that awards a bachelor’s degree or provides at least a two (2) year program that is acceptable towards a bachelor’s degree;
  • Is a public or other non-profit institution; and
  • Is accredited or pre-accredited.

Related to or Affiliated

The definition of an institute of higher education is clearly outlined, but how USCIS determines that a non-profit is “related to or affiliated” with such institutes is not as clear. To qualify for an H1b visa cap exemption, a non-profit petitioner can demonstrate that they are affiliated or related to an institution of higher education if they can prove at least one of the below prerequisites. Generally, that the non-profit is:

  • Associated through mutual ownership or control by the same board or federation;
  • Is operated by an institution of higher education; or
  • Is attached to an institution of higher education as a member, branch, cooperative, or subsidiary.

Non-profits need to provide proof that they qualify for this exemption. Some evidence that USCIS may consider includes but is not limited to, By-Laws and Articles of Incorporation, IRS 501(c)(3) Designation Letter, documentation listing the mutual Board of Directors members, and agreements between the non-profit and institute.

Oliver-Zhang Law’s immigration attorneys recognize that the H-1B visa process can be confusing. That’s why our professionals are committed to guiding you every step of the way. We even provide free immigration consultations for individuals and companies that want to learn more about H-1B visas.

Contact us today to inquire about our immigration services. Call our experienced H1B attorneys ready to provide you with the best services at (202) 643-1110 or email us at [email protected]. We look forward to working with you.

Dependents of H-1B Visa Holders are Permitted to Enter and Remain in the United States

By Jessabelle M. Koppelman

The H-1B visa registration period is open and ready for entries to the H1b lottery! The online account creation process began on February 21st for Fiscal Year 2023. This temporary employment program allows foreign nationals to join the U.S. workforce in a variety of fields. Past H-1B visa holders have had the opportunity to work at some of the top companies in the U.S., such as Ernst & Young, Facebook, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and more. Another benefit of the H-1B visa program is that an H-1B worker can bring their family with them to the United States. USCIS allows the visa holder’s spouse and children to enter and stay in the U.S.

Specifically, approved H-1B beneficiaries can request that their spouses and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one (21) obtain H-4 status. H-4 status allows these dependent family members to stay with the H-1B visa worker in the U.S. Below are some important things to note about H-4 status.

  • Employment for H-4 Dependents: Generally, spouses of H-1B visa holders are not authorized
    to work in the U.S. However, there are two (2) instances where the dependent may apply for
    employment authorization through Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. H-4
    dependent spouses may be permitted to work in the U.S. if the H-1B visa holder:
    • Is the principal beneficiary of an approved Immigration Petition for Alien Worker (Form
      I-140); or
    • Was granted “H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21).” This means that the H-1B worker has been granted an extension of stay beyond the six (6) year period because their employer has filed Form I-140 or permanent labor certification if a year has passed since the filing.

      Please note that the H-4 dependent spouse is not authorized to start work until USCIS approves Form I-765.
  • Duration of Stay: H-4 status relies on the H-1B visa holder’s standing. Thus, H-4 status terminates when the worker’s H-1B status terminates. H-1B visas are valid for up to three (3) years and may be extended for an additional three (3) years. Six (6) years in the maximum duration period for an H-1B visa holder.

    With the H-1B visa, foreign nationals do not have to choose between working in the U.S. and being with their families. H-1B season is here and moving quickly. To learn more about important dates and steps, click here.

    It is best to consult a professional to help you navigate the H-1B visa process. Oliver-Zhang Law is here to help you every step of the way. Our immigration lawyers will work hard to help you secure an H-1B visa and are available to assist you with your other immigration needs. Call us today at (202) 643-1110 or email us at [email protected] for a free immigration consultation. We service employers and individuals in the Virginia, Maryland, District of
    Columbia, and Washington state areas, as well as nationwide.

H-1B Visa Denial Rates Are at an All Time Low

By Jessabelle M. Koppelman, Esq.

During the Trump Administration, we witnessed H-1B visa denial rates skyrocket with the passage of restrictive immigration policies. For example, former President Trump implemented policy instructing USCIS officers to stop giving deference to previously approved petitions when reviewing H1b visa extensions. Fortunately, President Biden has rescinded this policy during his administration

As some Trump immigration policies phase out, USCIS has drastically reduced H1b visa denials. Forbes reported that for fiscal year (“FY”) 2021, the denial rate fell to 4% for new H1b visa petitions. This trend is great news for U.S. companies looking to temporarily employ foreign nationals as diversifying your work force can lead to greater results and new ideas. Let’s take a look at how these numbers changed:

From FY 2017 to FY 2020, the average denial rate for new H1b visa petitions was just over 17%.
For FY 2018, denial rates rose all the way up to 24%.


These numbers are high compared to the Obama Administration’s initial H1b visa denial rates.


The same pattern is also true for continuing employment petitions (extensions for previously approved visas) as the denial rate was only 2% for FY 2021 – much lower than previous years.


We recently saw less interest in the temporary work program. For FY 2021, USCIS received 274,237 H1b visa registrations. This number rose to 308,613 for FY 2022. The global pandemic also greatly hindered employment-based immigration positions.

The Biden Administration is taking steps towards reforming the H1b visa program. On January 21, 2022, they announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expanded the list of degrees included in the STEM field that qualify for the Optional Practical Training program. To read how this expansion positively impacts H1B visas, click here.  

With H-1B visa petition submissions returning to normal, it is imperative that your initial application is in good condition. Our experienced immigration lawyers are here to assist you with the H1b visa process and the best legal services with dedicated attorneys. Oliver-Zhang law offers free immigration consultations. To speak with one of our immigration attorneys, please email us at [email protected]  or call us at 202-643-1110. H1b account registration has already begun, so call us today!

Specialty Occupation Category for H-1B Visas

By Jessabelle M. Koppelman, Esq.

The U.S. labor market is growing as a record 6.4 million jobs were created last year. Securing an H1b visa is a great way to take part in this competitive and vibrant work force. The “Specialty Occupations” category is one of three H1b visa designations that a prospective worker may qualify for. Those applying for an H1b visa (sponsored by a U.S. employer) should be familiar with the requirements for Specialty Occupations.

But first, what does Specialty Occupations mean? Essentially, the occupation requires “Theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge” and “Attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.” Specialty fields may include IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, science, business, consulting, professor, and more.

The position must meet one of the below requirements:
* The minimum requirement for the position is normally a bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent;
* The degree requirement is common to the industry in similar positions among like organizations or, alternatively, the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree;
* The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; or
* The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.

The employee must have:
* a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited college or university;
* a foreign degree equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited college or university; or
* an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification that authorizes you to practice
the specialty occupation and be immediately engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment.

If you do not have a bachelor’s degree or higher, you can still qualify for an H1b visa. Instead, you must demonstrate that you possess an education, specialized training, and/or progressively responsible experience equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher in the specialty occupation, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty. You can substitute one year of university education with three years of work experience.

Please note that if you do not have a U.S. degree, you will need to obtain a foreign equivalency certification. This is a report from an educational credential evaluator that shows the U.S. college educational equivalency of your degree. To learn more about the H1b visa process, click here and to familiarize yourself with the associated filing costs, click here.

You can now register to create an H-1b visa application account. Working with an immigration attorney can help strengthen your chances of gaining an H-1b visa approval. Our immigration lawyers are ready to help you! At Oliver-Zhang, our dedicated staff is committed to providing you with top immigration services. Please contact us today at [email protected], or call us at 202-643-1110 for a FREE immigration consultation.

How Much Does It Cost to Apply for H-1B Visa?

By Julie Oliver-Zhang, Esq. & Annjelika Slate

There are several H-1B visa costs that must be covered by either an employer or employee as part of the H-1B registration and application process. While thinking about these costs, it is important to understand who pays for which fees and at what point in the process these fees need to be paid.

H-1B visas are used by U.S. businesses and organizations to employ international workers. Applicants will have either graduate level qualifications or sufficient expertise to work in qualifying occupations. For further information on who can apply for a H-1B visa, see:

An H-1B visa, itself, can cost an upwards of $6,470, not including a premium processing fee or attorney fees. Here is breakdown of who is responsible for what:

FeeAmountWho is Responsible?
E-Registration Fee$10Employer
Basic Visa Filing Fee (I-129)$460Employer
USCIS Anti-Fraud Fee$500Employer
Public Law 114-113 Fee$4,000Employer
ACWIA Education & Training Fee$750 (less than 25 employees) $1,500 (more than 25 employees)Employer
Attorney FeeVariable (please contact us at 202-643-1110 for free consultation and quote)Employer
Premium Processing (optional)$2,500Employer or Employee

E-Registration Fee: $10

Basic Filing Fee: The standard (basic) filing fee is $460 according to the I-129 petition for H1b visa.

USCIS Anti-Fraud Fee: This $500 fee applies to new H-1B petitioners or those who are changing employers. However, those submitting extensions with the same employer or those who qualify under the Chile or Singapore Free Trade Agreement do not have to pay this fee.

Public Law 114-113 Fee: This fee exists for companies with more than 50 employees, where over half of those who are employed with H-1B or L1 visas. This additional fee is $4,000.

ACWIA Education & Training Fee: ACWIA stands for American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998. These fees depend on the size of the company sponsoring the petitioner. For companies with less than 25 employees, the fee is $750. For companies with more than 25 employees, a $1,500 fee is required. The following entities are exempt from paying this fee:

  • Higher education institutions
  • Non-profit entities related to higher education institutions
  • Non-profit research organizations
  • Primary education institutions
  • Secondary education institutions
  • Government research organizations
  • Non-profit entities engaging in curriculum-related clinical training programs for students

Attorney Fees: H-1B attorney fees vary depending on the office. Please contact our office at 202-643-1110 or [email protected] to receive free consultation and quote.

Premium Processing Fee (optional): H-1B premium processing is an optional service that USCIS offers for a fast-tracked decision. This fee is $2,500. With this option, the fee can be paid by either the employer or employee.

Immigration laws and regulations change frequently, including the H-1B visa petition process. Missing or inaccurate information often can lead to USCIS denials of H1b visas. At Oliver-Zhang Law, we pride ourselves in our exemplary, client-focused service. Our experienced H-1B lawyers are here to provide the best service and help you succeed. Please contact us today at [email protected], or 202-643-1110 for a FREE immigration attorney consultation. We are looking forward to assisting you.

H-1B Lottery (FY 2023) Account Creation Opens February 21, 2022 – Are You Ready? Contact Oliver-Zhang Law TODAY!

By Julie Oliver-Zhang, Esq. and Annjelika Slate

As we get further into 2022, the H-1B lottery opening day is steadily approaching. Mark your calendars for February 21, 2022 as to when you can begin creating an H-1B registration account. That is less than two weeks away! For those who meet specific requirements, H1B lottery will be the first step in the process of potentially living and working in the
United States. Below, we will discuss what USCIS means by “lottery” and what to expect as first steps.

The H-1B “lottery” was created as a random selection process to select cap-subject H1B petitions from a large pool of properly submitted electronic registrations. Each fiscal year, the United States federal government sets aside a certain number of new H-1B visas as a “cap” to the number of international employees that will be allowed to live and
work within the United States. Congressionally mandated cap is 65,000 H-1B visas each year (“regular cap”), while extra 20,000 are for those that hold master’s degrees or higher from a United States institution (“advance degree exemption”).

For further information on the H-1B visa lottery process, see:

On February 21st, the USCIS online account creation process begins. This means that all potential H-1B applicants will be able to go online and create a USCIS account to prepare for H-1B application registration on March 1st. In 2020, USCIS for the first time made the H-1B approval procedures more reasonable by implementing an Electronic-Registration process that only asks for the worker beneficiary’s basic information. Unlike previous years, where H1B petitioners had to file their entire petition before hearing back on whether the application is selected in the lottery, this new online registration process is much easier and saves applicants time and money. Petitioners are required to register online which includes a $10 fee for each beneficiary. If you are selected as a lottery pick, you will
then move on to submitting your actual H1-B petition. Here is a timeline of important dates that you should be on the lookout for:

We understand that preparing for H-1B applications can be stressful. That is why Oliver-Zhang Law is here for you. Our H-1B lawyers are experienced and ready to assist you with the best service throughout your H-1B application process. Please contact us today at [email protected], or 202-643-1110 for a FREE immigration attorney consultation. We are looking forward to assisting you.

Policy Update: Biden Administration Expands STEM Field for Optional Practical Training Program for International College Students

By Jessabelle M. Koppelman, Esq. & Julie Oliver-Zhang, Esq.

We have an exciting immigration policy update for international college students! On January 21, 2022 the Biden Administration announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expanded the list of degrees included in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Field that qualify for the Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) program. This extension is advantageous for F-1 STEM students interested in obtaining an H1b visa.

OPT is a temporary employment program that is related to an F-1 student’s area of study. Eligible students may apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization. Fortunately for those with degrees in STEM, they may extend their temporary work permits for a period of up to two years. This gives individuals more time to secure an H1b visa from a sponsoring employer. The White House stated that the additional areas of study are fundamentally new, multidisciplinary or emerging fields that are “critical in attracting talent to support U.S. economic growth and technological competitiveness.” This initiative to expand the STEM definition for F-1 students is part of the Biden Administration’s efforts to attract global talent to strengthen the U.S. economy and technological competitiveness. You can read the full statement here:

The new academic areas of study added to the list of new STEM fields include:
* Bioenergy
* Forestry
* Forest Resources Production and Management
* Human-Centered Technology Design
* Cloud Computing
* Climate Science
* Earth Systems Science
* Environmental Geosciences
* Data Analytics
To read a comprehensive list of the new STEM fields see:

Since this work status is only temporary, F-1 students may want to consider applying for an H1b visa during their valid OPT or CPT period. If you are curious about whether an H1b visa is the right path for you, please contact Oliver-Zhang Law at [email protected] or 202-643-1110. We provide free immigration consultations. Our H-1B lawyers strive to provide you with the best service and chance for success. We are more than happy to answer your H1b visa questions.

The “Cap-Gap” Extension Explained

By Jessabelle M. Koppelman, Esq. & Julie T. Oliver-Zhang, Esq.

Who qualifies for the “Cap-Gap” extension, and how does it work?

Many F-1 students are concerned about being out of status during the period between the end of their Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) and when their approved H1b visa begins in October. The Cap-Gap extension provides a solution for F-1 students under an approved post-completion OPT program, or the STEM extension post-completion OPT program who have a sponsoring employer for the H1b visa. The Cap-Gap extension is available to F-1 students whose OPT period expires before October 1st and who have been offered an H1b visa for a position with a U.S. employer. The “Gap” refers to the period after your F-1 OPT, STEM OPT, or 60-day grace period expires and before you may start H1b employment. The 60-day grace period refers to the time you are permitted to stay in the U.S. or change visa status after your OPT status expires. It is important to know how your H1b visa petition impacts your ability to extend your stay in the U.S.

USCIS permits certain students with pending or approved Cap-subject H1b visa petitions to remain in F-1 status so they do not have to leave the United States during the cap-gap period. To qualify for this extension, you must satisfy the below requisites:

  • A U.S. company must timely file an H1b visa petition (I-129) with USCIS while the prospective beneficiary-student’s F-1 status is still valid or in their 60-day grace period. Please note that to qualify for the exemption, the employer must have first submitted Form I-129 and the form must be received before the expiration of the F-1 status or grace period.
  • The prospective H1b employment offer must be subject to the cap.
  • In the pending H1b visa petition (Form I-129), the employer must request a change of status to an H-1b.
  • The prospective employment must begin on October 1st.

The cap-gap extension automatically begins once the petitioner timely files a request to change the beneficiary’s status to H1b. If the H-1B visa petition is approved, then the student’s extension of status continues through September 30th. As the extension is automatic, there is no need to file an application or receive a new Employment Authorization Document. Although not required, an F-1 student may obtain an updated Form I-20 as proof of the extension of OPT employment authorization. The exemption allows an individual and their F-2 dependents to legally stay in the U.S. Importantly, however, F-1 students who entered the 60-day grace period are not authorized to work during the cap-gap extension.

Alternatively, if the H1b visa petition is denied, withdrawn, revoked, rejected, not selected, of if the change of status request is denied or withdrawn, then the extension of status is automatically terminated.

Working in the U.S. is a great way to gain valuable experience and opportunities. To find out if you are eligible for the cap-gap extension, please contact us today at [email protected], or 202-643-1110 for a free immigration consultation with one of our experienced H1b lawyers. At Oliver-Zhang Law, we are devoted to providing you with the best H-1b visa services.

When Should You Start Your H-1B Visa Application in 2022 for FY 2023

By Jessabelle M. Koppleman, Esq. & Julie T. Oliver-Zhang, Esq.

Common questions about the H1b visa process are: “When should I apply?” and “How long does the H-1B visa process take?” Each fiscal year, USCIS sets aside 85,000 new H1b visa availability in October. Although these visas are not effective until the fall, the application process begins much earlier. If you plan on filing an H1b petition in 2022 (FY 2023), you should be aware of the following timeline: 

FY 2023 H-1B Electronic Registration Process: Petitioners must first register online using the USCIS Electronic Registration Process. In this first step, employers seeking to employ prospective H-1B worker(s) subject to the cap must complete a registration application that requires only basic information about the prospective petitioner and worker(s). You can begin creating an H-1B registrant account on February 21, 2022 at noon Eastern Time. The registration period officially opens in March for a minimum of 14 calendar days. This year, the registration period opens on March 1, 2022 and closes on March 18, 2022 at noon Eastern Time. 

Lottery Selection: USCIS will then conduct a random selection among the properly submitted electronic registrations. Generally, USCIS will notify selected registrants by March 31st. If selected, this means that you were randomly chosen in the “lottery” draw and are invited to submit your H1b petition. USCIS generally conducts two lottery draws and may include additional draws as needed. For Fiscal Year 2022, USCIS received 308,613 registrations and initially selected 87,500 registrants. However, only 59,783 H1b applications were approved by USCIS, or 68%. The 32% of H-1B applications that were rejected as deficient freed up H1b visa availability for a second round.   In July of 2021, USCIS conducted a second draw and selected 27,717 registrants. 

For further explanation of the H-1B visa lottery see:  

Petition: Once selected in the lottery, you may file your H1b visa petition in April. The initial filing window for a cap-subject H-1B is normally April 1st to June 30th (a 90 day filing period). USCIS may set additional filing periods when they decide to conduct additional selections.

Approval Time of the H-1B Petition: Typically, USCIS will process a petition within 4-6 months. Alternatively, Premium Processing is available for H-1B petitions at an additional charge of $2,500. Premium Processing provides expedited processing of the petition within 15 calendar days. Please note, Premium Processing does not guarantee approval of a petition. 

Effective Date: Finally, if USCIS approves the H1b visa petition and change of status request, the beneficiary-worker may start employment, at the earliest, on October 1st

Preparing your H1b visa petition can be complex, that’s why Oliver-Zhang Law is here for you every step of the way. We have years of experience and proven track record of successfully filing H1b visa applications and we are committed to giving you the best chance of success. 

Contact one of our dedicated H1b lawyers today at [email protected], or 202-643-1110 to inquire about our H1b visa services. Oliver-Zhang Law provides free immigration consultations. We service employers and individuals in the Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, and Washington state areas, as well as nationwide.

Everything You Need to Know About H-1B Visas in 2022 for FY 2023

H1b visa season is quickly approaching! Here are some key things you need to know about the H1b visa program.

News Update: Oliver-Zhang Law is now offering FREE service for the electronic registration process (typically $450 dollars) if you retain us for your H1-B application. If you are not selected in the lottery, your attorney fee will be returned in full.

H1b visas are temporary work permits that allow individuals with special skills and education to work in the United States for up to three years; however, extensions may be granted. The minimum requirements are a bachelor’s degree and specialized skills. There are three H1b visa designations: Specialty Occupations (jobs with specialized responsibilities requiring expert knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field), DOD Research and Development Project Workers, and Fashion Models. An eligible employer (“petitioner”) must sponsor the prospective worker (“beneficiary.”). One of the benefits of this program is that spouses and children of H1b visa holders may accompany the beneficiary.

The Cap:

A unique aspect of this visa program is the “Cap.” Each fiscal year, the federal government sets
aside 65,000 new H1b visas for eligible candidates. An additional 20,000 visas are reserved for
individuals with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution. USCIS also created a cap
exemption for individuals employed by an institute of higher education or an affiliated nonprofit entity; a nonprofit research organization; or a government research organization.

Registration and Lottery:

Since the government only issues a limited number of H1b visas, candidates are subject to the
visa “lottery.” This lottery is akin to a raffle that is essentially broken down into two phases: Advanced-degree candidates and remaining registrants. In 2020, USCIS streamlined H1b procedures by implementing an Electronic Pre-Registration process. Under this new system, petitioners must first register online and pay the $10 fee for each beneficiary. Next, USCIS randomly selects participants from the online registries.

One of the greatest advantages to this new system is that only basic information about the
prospective petitioner and worker is needed. Prior to 2020, petitioners were required to submit
complete petitions before the lottery draw. Now, petitions are submitted after the lottery
selection, saving participants time and money.

H1b Application:

Putting together your petition packet is a crucial endeavor. If you are selected to participate in the H1b program, you will need to complete these three general steps:

1. For specialty occupation and fashion models, the petitioner must submit and receive a Labor Condition Application certified by the Department of Labor.

2. The petitioner must complete and submit Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.

3. For beneficiaries outside the U.S., you will need to apply for a visa and/or admission. The beneficiary may apply with the U.S. Department of State at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad. Prospective H1b workers, regardless of whether a visa is required, must apply to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for admission to the U.S. under the H1b

There are many benefits to the H1b visa program. If you have questions about H1b visa procedures, contact one of our experienced immigration lawyers today for a free immigration consultation. At Oliver-Zhang Law, our employment immigrations lawyers are committed to providing you with quality immigration help.