My H-1B Failure Story
February 16, 2024

This blog post is going to be slightly sad. It's about my history with one of the most notorious VISAs out there; the H-1B.

As many of you probably know, winning the H-1B visa is like winning the lottery for those who want to work in the states. I use the word "lottery" without any sarcasm or humor. The H-1B process is a literal lottery where only 85,000 spots are made available every year and applicants get selected in a literal lottery to get the chance to apply for the VISA. Let me say that again, applicants go through a lottery just to get the chance to apply for the VISA. From a quick Google search, you will find that the chance of selection for this year's lottery was 11.1%... and it's falling every year. I have a lot of qualms and opinions about the VISA but I will save that for another rant. Back to my story...

Immediately after graduating from college, I started working at a big tech company with the F-1 Student VISA. F1 + STEM OPT extended my ability to stay in the states for 3 years but I knew that the next VISA I needed to get was the H-1B. The only problem was that unlike many other things in life, I was completely not in control of the process. I had to leave it up to the VISA Gods to grant me the blessing of being selected as one of millions of applicants. Despite all this, I had heard stories of close acquaintances that managed to get selected for the VISA and are now in the process of getting their Green Card. Every time I heard this, I told myself

I am relatively lucky guy, right? If Ed got it, I will probably get it. I won't worry about it too much. I got 3 years until I have to think about other ways to stay in the states.. Why worry about it now?!

I knew that the lottery happens every year until the government fills up all 85,000 spots. 3 chances, 11% success rate per chance.... so around 29.5% chance of getting the H-1B over 3 years... sounds do-able.

3 years passed and didn't get selected

Well, why am I not surprised at all 🥹
Well, why am I not surprised at all 🥹

It was weird. Even before I got the email from the immigration lawyers telling me that I didn't get the VISA, I almost knew that I wouldn't get it. Maybe it was me coping for the inevitable sadness that would wash over me when I get the news of rejection from yet another Gmail notification... maybe I knew that 29.5% wasn't high enough. Maybe I knew that I should have been tipping people slightly more to collect all the good karma I could get.

But there I was, with 6 months left before my F-1 STEM OPT would expire... what now? Thankfully, the company I worked for at the time had a program where they "parked" their international employees that ran into US VISA problems in other countries. "UK or Canada, where do you want to go to be parked?" my immigration lawyer said. "Fish and chips sound nice." I responded. 6 months later, I found myself in middle of Heathrow Airport trying to figure out how to find new "flats" in London - they don't use Craigslist or Zillow there.

Keys to my first flat in London. I guess you gotta celebrate small wins.
Keys to my first flat in London. I guess you gotta celebrate small wins.

I wish I heard about the O-1

I managed to come back to the states with the O-1 after living in London for a year. I wrote about this experience in another blog post linked here. But after going through the O-1 application process, I thought to myself "Wait, I could have definitely gotten this before I left for London... Nothing in my life changed that much.. I didn't discover a new element on the periodic table or anything."

If you take one thing away from this post, I wish it was this.

Don't let random chance (H-1B) determine your future. Take control of your future by taking action. The O-1 is more approachable than you think. Talk to a lawyer immediately.

If you want to speak to a lawyer, I would be happy to recommend you the one I worked with. He has an approval rating of 95% and is a genuinely nice human being. Email me at [email protected] and best of luck.