Whenever an American employer in California wants to hire a foreign worker with a higher education degree, they must file for an H-1B visa application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Accordingly, USCIS will discern whether the potential employee meets certain credentials before putting them in a lottery. Only 65,000 H-1B visas in total are issued in this lottery. Additionally, USCIS issues an extra 20,000 visas for employees with a U.S. master's degree. The spouses and children of H-1B workers can also come to the U.S. if they apply for H-4 status.
Employers wanting to file for an H-1B visa can start from April 1 each year, whereas USCIS starts putting the names in the lottery pool by October 1. The lottery itself happens during early April, which is why the month of March is considered the H-1B cap season.
All that being said, the processes for applying for an H-1B visa as well as for H-4 status have recently changed a bit. To start with, the H-1B lottery used to go as follows: The USCIS started with the U.S. master's degree pool, picking 20,000 cases. Subsequently, the USCIS took 65,000 cases from the entire pool. Alternatively, starting this year, the order will be reversed, meaning that USCIS will start with the entire pool, taking the 65,000 cases, and take the 20,000 cases afterward.
This reversal of order means that more applicants with U.S. master's degree will be picked. In regard to the H-4 application process, applicants need to go through more hoops and fill more applications than before. This will make the process take longer. Furthermore, any applicants who want to work may have to wait longer until they hear from employment authorization.
As a result of these new changes, a lot of applicants may feel confused and uncertain about what's going to happen next. Therefore, some might find it beneficial to reach out to an experienced immigration lawyer who may be able to shed a light on things and help navigate these changing waters.