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Bids in the lottery for skilled-worker visas in the US have sharply declined following reforms targeting fraud and abuse

Lottery Tickets (Joe Allen/Shutterstock)

Lottery applications for visas aimed at highly educated workers dropped almost 40% this year, officials said Tuesday. They claimed success in stopping people from “gaming the system” by submitting multiple, sometimes questionable, applications to unfairly boost their chances of winning.

Big tech firms that rely on H-1B visas pushed for changes after a surge in applications made it harder for their employees and new hires to win in the random lottery.

Acknowledging fraud and misuse, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced this year that each person could only enter the lottery once, regardless of how many job offers they had — whether one or fifty.

This year, the government received 470,342 entries for the lottery, held in late March, which was down 38% from 758,994 entries last year. The number of workers applying remained steady, about 442,000 this year compared to 446,000 last year, indicating fewer people applied multiple times.

People arrive before the start of a naturalization ceremony (Rick Smith/Getty Images)

Applications skyrocketed from 2021 to 2023 after the government eliminated the need for bulky paperwork to enter the lottery. Instead, a $10 electronic registration fee was required, making it easier to participate but also opening the door for companies and individuals to flood the system with applications. USCIS cited one person who submitted applications for 83 job offers in 2022 as an extreme example.

The decrease in applications this year “suggests there were fewer attempts to unfairly gain an advantage compared to previous years,” USCIS noted in a message to companies, applicants, and their representatives.

H-1B visas, established in 1990, are for individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree in fields like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) where skilled workers are in demand. Critics argue these visas enable companies to pay lower wages and provide fewer labor protections.

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