148: How We Won the H-1B Lottery

We interviewed our own Technical Creative Director, Ann Nguyen about her five-year journey of working on an H-1B visa then finally gaining employment-based permanent residency through EB-3 application. This long process involved a lot of work, paper, patience and of course, luck. This podcast conversation walks through how a company should consider the value of the H-1B process. 

Special thanks to our immigration lawyer, Laurence Borten, we can’t say enough about how amazing his work has been in securing this H-1B Visa and Green Card.

H-1B Resources

Ann’s H-1B timeline

Initial H-1B petition in 2015

  • Before H-1B: CPT (Feb – May 2014), OPT (June 2014 – May 2015)
  • Jan – March 2015: H-1B application prep with lawyer. Pay attention to your friend Form I-129
  • April 1, 2015: filed H-1B petition
  • April 7, 2015: press release from USCIS

USCIS received nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 13, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing.

The agency conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All unselected advanced degree petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.

  • April 25, 2015: “Good news!” email from lawyer saying that our check was cleared, which most likely meant that our petition was selected in the lottery. Pro tip: keep track of whether or not your check gets cleared as an early signal of “winning” the lottery. We did not get an official notice till months later.
  • July 30, 2015: official notice from USCIS on I-129 approval!
  • September 2015: applied for H-1B visa stamp at US Consulate in Vietnam

H-1B renewal in 2018

  • April 2018: started planing renewal process
  • September 2018: filed renewal petition
  • February 2019: received approval notice!

Other H-1B resources

EB-3 employment-based permanent resident: application timeline and adjustment of status interview tips

USCIS guide on EB-3

Ann’s EB-3 timeline

  • March 2017: initial meetings with lawyer
  • August 2017: filed Prevailing Wage Determination 
  • November 2017: refiled PWD 
  • February – July 2018: recruiting
  • August 2018: filed PERM labor certification 
  • October 2018: filed I-140 and I-485 
  • December 2018: fingerprints appointment
  • February 2019: received Request for Evidence
  • Early May 2019: submitted RFE
  • Late May 2019: I-140 approved
  • October 18 2019: adjustment of status interview
  • October 23 2019: green card in production!

Adjustment of status interview

Interviews for employment-based green cards were not required until October 2017 so there aren’t a lot of resources letting applicants know what to expect. Though every field office is different, we will share our tips for preparing and experience at the interview for those getting ready for this stage of the application. 

Before the interview

  • Review the submitted application with your lawyer. Read through your I-140 and I-485 forms several times to make sure you know the details. I may have had friends quiz me on different sections. I opted to have our lawyer join me at the interview for peace of mind. 
  • Prepare ahead of time all documents listed in your interview appointment letter even if those docs are already included in your application. 
  • Get your medical exam done with plenty of time to spare! There are services that could complete the required exam in a day but most authorized doctors will require 2 visits a few days apart before filling out medical form I-693 that you will bring to the interview. Pro tip: call USCIS authorized doctor in your area to check if they are in-network with your health insurance and if they are, ask for the medical procedure insurance code. Call your insurance to see if your plan covers the procedure. After many phone calls and much headache, I made appointments with an in-network civil surgeon who performed all the necessary tests and completed form I-693 over the course of a week. Cross-referencing with insurance saved me around $400.

At the interview

  • Arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. After checking in, you will be given a ticket number. Then the wait begins for that number to be called. 
  • The waiting room in the New York field office even had windows! After 2.5 hours of waiting and 2 full episodes of Live with Kelly and Ryan and The View, our number was finally called. Pro tip: bring a book.
  • My interview officer was very friendly. After swearing me in, she only asked for passports, recent pay stubs, latest W-2, and medical exam form I-693. Although I was prepared to recite every detail in our application, I only had to say what my job title was and what Whole Whale did. We even had a few moments of comedic relief. The rest of the interview was yes/no background questions.
  • After 10 minutes, the interview was done and the officer let me know that the decision would be made within 120 days. Phew! 

After the interview

My lawyer advised against traveling outside of the US while waiting for the interview decision so needless to say, I had to put all travel planning on hold. Thankfully, just three business days after the interview an email with the subject line “Congrats!” from our lawyer landed in my inbox. He had received a notice from USCIS letting us know that my permanent resident card was in production. This announcement set off a chain of celebratory emojis in Slack. Now we wait for the card to arrive in the mail.

Bonus update!

Green card arrived in the mail on October 29th along with a nifty pamphlet that Puppy Whaler has been studying.