A United States federal agency said on Friday said that the computerised drawing of lots devised to select successful H-1B visa applicants may have led to attempts to abuse the system.

Under the H-1B programme, companies in the United States can temporarily employ foreign workers in “specialty occupations” for up to six years. For several years, Indians have been getting the largest share of such visas. In the fiscal year 2021, Indians got 74.1% of H-1B visas issued by the United States.

As per a limit set by the United States Congress, the country can issue a maximum of 65,000 regular H-1B visas and an additional 20,000 visas for those who hold advanced degrees each year. The numerical limit of 65,000 is referred to as the H-1B cap, while the limit of 20,000 additional visas is referred to as the master’s cap.

On Friday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said that during the registration period for the 2024 H-1B cap, it saw a significant increase in the number of registrations submitted as compared to earlier years. As per its data, there were 7,80,884 applications for H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2024, as against 4,83,927 for 2023. There were 3,01,447 applications for the fiscal year 2022 and 2,74,237 for the year 2021.

The authority said that this increase has raised serious concerns “that some may have tried to gain an unfair advantage by working together to submit multiple registrations on behalf of the same beneficiary”.

The US federal authority said that this may have unfairly increased the visa applicants’ chances of selection. “We remain committed to deterring and preventing abuse of the registration process, and to ensuring only those who follow the law are eligible to file an H-1B cap petition,” it said.

The authority also said that based on evidence from the applications for the years 2023 and 2024, it has already undertaken extensive fraud investigations. It emphasised that organisations are required to sign attestations that they have not worked with any other entities to unfairly increase the chances of selection for beneficiaries.

“USCIS may also refer the individual or entity who submitted a false attestation to appropriate federal law enforcement agencies for investigation and further action, as appropriate,” it said.