The H1B Visa Lottery: Summary of Case Status Notices

If you are waiting to hear about your H1B visa petition and whether it was selected in the lottery, then you may be curious about the notices you will receive and what they mean.  The first thing to know is that if selected, either your sponsor or attorney will receive your case number, which will allow you to check your status online.

Notices by Regular Mail Only in 2018, Or Online

All notices are also sent by mail, except for premium processing (by email) which was suspended this year until September.  So, presumably all notices will be sent by regular mail only to the employer or attorney’s address. They can also be found online by using your case number for lookup on the USCIS website.

Typical Case Status Notices and Their Meaning

There are a variety of notices that one could receive, requiring different responses or actions.  Here is a quick summary, using the official notice names used by USCIS:

“Case Was Received and A Receipt Notice Was Emailed”: notice of selection in the lottery (only for premium processing, suspended in 2018).

“Case Was Received”:  receipt notice of selection in the lottery and case number, sent by regular mail.  This is good news and means you beat the odds and your petition will now be reviewed by USCIS.

“Request for Additional Evidence Notice was mailed”:  processing is suspended until further evidence if received to support the H1B petition.  If your petition was incomplete or missing documents this is the notice you receive.

“Response to USCIS’ Request for Evidence Was Received”:  the USCIS has received the additional evidence/documentation requested, and processing has resumed to be completed by a stated date in the notice.

“Case Was Approved”:  Petition has been approved and receipt notice sent to employer by regular mail.  This is the best news, and now you can begin making travel plans for your stated start date of employment.

“Decision Notice Mailed”:  if the RFE was inadequate this notice is the denial and a chance for the employer/sponsor to provide more evidence or challenge the ruling.

“Error: The application Receipt Number is invalid”:  the case number entered on the USCIS website is incorrect.

“Name was updated”:  means there is some activity on your case and your name may have been updated due to a clerical error.

“Fees will be Refunded”:  even if approved the USCIS may refund fees to the sponsor based on their business status, number of employees or other exemptions.  It does not mean a denial and a total refund of fees, since you would need to get the “Decision Notice Mailed” for a true denial.

How Long do You Have to Wait?

The pressing question is how long all of these notices take, especially since you are waiting to hear about prospective employment.  Not all petitions are equal in this respect, and if you need to provide more information, then it can take several months. But as long as you don’t get a denial notice, that means you are still under review or there is a backlog of petitions.  

However, most petitions will be either approved or denied by July so there will be plenty of time to make arrangements.  The earliest possible start date of employment for petitions that are in the April lottery is October 1, 2018. You can arrive in the US no more than 10 days prior to your employment start date.  So, be patient and good luck!

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  • June 20th, 2018
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