Getting an H1b visa is getting tougher as the number of prospective applicants applying each year is increasing, and the annual cap remains the same. Some of the H1b applicants face stress and frustration if they do not get selected in the lottery in consecutive attempts.

However, the odds of being selected in the following year remain almost the same because of the lottery system.

There are a few things that an applicant can do to increase their chances of getting into the US.

Firstly, if the applicant is only a bachelorette, they can study master’s from a US institution so that they have a chance of getting selected in further 20,000 H1b visas that are saved for individuals with master or higher education.

Or, if you find study expensive, you can apply for H1b jobs in a cap-exempt category, such as with an institution of higher education.

This article will focus on the institution of higher education and higher education cap exemption.

What is the H1b cap exemption?

The H1b visas are issued in limited numbers to control the net migration of skilled labor in the US market. Currently, up to 65,000 visas are issued annually for foreign workers possessing at least a US bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. However, USCIS allows certain employers to sponsor H1b visas without being subject to the H1b cap. The following institutions come under the category of cap-exempt employer:

  • Institution of higher education and its related or affiliated nonprofit entity.
  • Nonprofit research organization or governmental research organization.
  • Furthermore, the US employer can sponsor up to 20,000 H1b workers with a master’s or higher degree from a US institution of higher education without being subject to the annual cap of 65,000 petitions.

What is an institution for higher education under the H1b cap exemption?

To be eligible as an institution of higher education, the organization should meet the following conditions:

1#Admission of students in the institution

The qualifying institution of higher education can only accept the following students as their regular students:

  • Students who have a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or
  • Students who have obtained a recognized equivalent of such a certificate of graduation.

If the students do not qualify for the above two conditions, the institution can give admission to students who meet the requirements of 20 U.S.C. 1091(d).

2#Authorization from state

The institution must be legally authorized within such a state to provide a program of education beyond secondary education.

3#Educational program requirements

The institution must provide the following programs:

  • Should award either a bachelor’s degree for its educational programs or awards a degree that is acceptable to take admission for a graduate or professional degree program.
  • If the institution does not provide a bachelor’s degree, it should provide a minimum of a two-year program that is an acceptable education accreditation of such a degree.

4#Institutional Status

The institution should be either a public or non-profit organization.


  • The institution should be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association, or
  • If the institution is not accredited, it should be granted pre-accreditation status by such an agency or association that has been recognized by the Secretary for the granting of pre-accreditation status, and the Secretary is assured that the institution will meet the accreditation standards of such an agency or association within a reasonable time.

If the institution meets the above five conditions, it can qualify as an institution of higher education and sponsor H1b workers without being subject to the annual cap.

What are the benefits of filing your H1b petition by a US institution for higher education?

The US statute has given certain institutions blanket exemption from the annual H1b cap. Institutions of higher education such as universities is an example of such institutions. There are many advantages of getting your H1b sponsorship from an institution of higher education. These are:

1#Your H1b visa can be filed at any time throughout the year.

An H1b cap-subject employer usually submits the H1b visa application around April, and once the annual cap is met, they cannot submit further H1b applications. However, the US institution of higher education is exempt from numerical limitations and can submit the H1b petition at any time throughout the year.

2#You can search for other jobs in the US.

The job search is always better if you are in the US rather than searching for jobs from outside the US. If your chance of getting selected in the lottery is gone for a particular, fiscal year, you do not need to worry.

You only need the steady hand of an experienced immigration attorney from Herman Legal Group who will help you in getting cap-exempt jobs that you can apply to even after the H1b quota is full for a particular fiscal year. Once you are in the US, you can change your jobs in other non-exempt categories or apply to cap-subject H1b jobs and be hopeful of getting selected in the lottery.

3#You can better utilize your year.

Instead of waiting for the next year to apply for the H1b visas under the general cap again, if you are able to land a job under a cap-exempt employer, you will better utilize your year. You can also add that experience to your CV, which may help you to land even better jobs in the future.

Which educational institutions do not qualify for H1b cap exemption?

The institutions that satisfy the requirements laid down in 20 U.S.C. 1001 qualify for H1b cap exemption. So colleges or universities that run with the motive of earning profit or unaccredited institutions do not qualify for H1b cap exemption.

What is a master’s degree or higher education cap exemption?

The USCIS offers 20,000 visas for qualifying applicants who hold a master’s or higher degree from eligible universities or institutions. These visas do not fall under the regular cap of 65,000 visas, and people with higher education are given priority.

Though the 20,000 quota may sometimes be referred to as a master’s degree or higher education exemption, it is not really an exemption as the applicants are still subject to H 1b cap.

One of the advantages of applying H1b visa with a master’s degree or higher is that USCIS conducts a separate lottery for those who possess an advanced degree from an eligible institution. This means that the applicants have 2 chances of getting selected in the lottery.

So why is this referred to as an H1b exemption?

This is because suppose, for example, your application does not get selected in the regular lottery of 65,000 applications. After that, the USCIS identifies 17,300 applications among the rejected as the application of beneficiary holding a master’s degree or higher from an eligible US institution of higher education.

USCIS will allow all the applications because an additional 20,000 petitions must be allowed for the higher education category after the regular cap of 65,000 is reached.

How does the lottery system work for H1b master’s degree or higher education applicants?

The USCIS currently uses the following procedure to determine the H1B applicants fairly:

  • When the applications (including master’s quota eligible candidates applications) are in excess of the regular quota of 65,000, the USCIS conducts a lottery in which a random computer lottery selects 65,000 applications for further H1b processing.
  • The USCIS then identifies the applications of master’s quota eligible candidates from the number of applications that are not selected in the lottery. If there are more than 20,000 applications, the USCIS will conduct a second lottery in the same manner to select 20,000 candidates for further H1b processing.

The applicants holding a master’s degree or higher from eligible US institutions of higher education have more odds of getting selected as they are participating in the lottery twice.

How can Herman Legal Group help?

You are not alone. If you face any issues in your immigration process, Herman Legal Group is there to help you. We are US based immigration law firm with over 25 years of experience in representing individuals, families, and companies in all aspects of immigration law, in all 50 states and around the world.

How to book an appointment with us? It is easy, and you can consult our immigration attorneys by calling 1-216-696-6170 or by booking online. We provide consultations across all online platforms via Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime, or Google Meet.

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