For FY 2017, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received approximately 236,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions—which is more than last year by about 3,000 petitions.  Because the number of available spots remained the same, the odds of “winning” the H-1B Cap Lottery are slightly worse than last year.

Using the limited information available and basic mathematical calculations, simple math shows that the overall odds of receiving a number in the FY 2017 H-1B cap are just over 33%.  If you deduct the 20,000 advanced degree “winners” from the total 236,000 petitions, and re-calculate, the odds decrease to just over 26% for the remaining petitions which include both the unselected advanced degree petitions and the regular cap petitions.

This compares to my FY 2016 calculations of about 34% for the Master’s cap and only approximately 27% for the regular cap.  For FY 2015 H-1B my calculations indicated that the odds were about 43% under the regular cap, with still better chances for those with a Master’s or higher degree at approximately 50%.

So each year, the odds of being selected in the lottery have decreased.  This year, however, the difference is much less dramatic than the change between FY 2015 and FY 2016.  Perhaps the economic improvement of recent years has stabilized and demand for highly specialized workers is leveling out.  Or, it could be that some pressure for H-1B numbers was alleviated due to the eligibility of certain H-4 spouses for work authorization.  (See my blog post H-4 EAD Applications Accepted Beginning May 26, 2015:  Are you that “certain spouse”? at  Nobody can say for sure.

What we do know is that USCIS completed its computer-generated random selection process (i.e., lottery selection) on April 9th.  Receipt notices (I-797 Notices of Action to acknowledge petition receipt) are still being sent.  Will you be one of the lucky winners?  Time will tell whether your petition is selected in the lottery or it will be one of the over approximately 150,000 petitions that will be rejected and returned to employers.

For more information regarding the “odds” during FY 2016 and FY 2015, please see my prior blog posts captioned, FY 2016 H-1B Cap:  What are the Odds? at and FY 2015 H-1B Cap:  What are the Odds? at


Catherine Wadhwani is a partner in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Immigration Practice Group.  You can reach Catherine at (412) 394-5540 or