Now that USCIS has completed the H-1B lottery on the 190,098 petitions received at the Vermont and California Service Centers, this is what you can expect next. All petitions filed were first reviewed for completeness (proper filing fee checks, certified LCA included, all forms completed and signed properly, correct address/Service Center, etc).
Those that make the cut are assigned a random computer generated number. The Advanced Degree petitions (US masters or higher) are separated and 20,000 are selected by lottery. Those not selected will then be pooled with the Regular Cap petitions (bachelors degree or non-US degree). Another lottery will be conducted to choose the remaining 65,000 petitions.
Those in F-1 status with an OPT expiring before June 1st should be able to obtain a new I-20 from your school that extends your stay and work authorization via the cap gap until June 1st. Once a receipt notice is issued, then your school should be able to issue you another I-20 extending your cap gap until September 30th.
If your petition is selected, we usually start getting receipt notices in late April and well into mid-May. The receipt notices come via snail mail and are sent only to the employer or attorney. If you get a receipt notice, that means your case was selected. Please note that your case still has to go through the adjudication process, selection does not mean approval.
If you want to confirm that your employer filed an H-1B on your behalf, you can request a copy of your LCA. The employer is required to provide this to you. Next, see if you can get the tracking number of the package mailed to USCIS. You can also try asking for a copy of the petition that was filed, but there is no requirement that the employer share this with you and many will not do so. You will not be able to call USCIS because only the employer or attorney can do so.
Some time in June, those petitions that were not selected will start to be returned to us by mail. They are sent to the attorney or employer. No notification will be given directly to you (the employee). The returned petition will include a cover sheet from USCIS with your computer generated number on it and a statement that your petition was not selected in the lottery. If you are an F-1 student, you may be able to check with your DSO if the SEVIS system shows a pending H-1B.
Since premium processing service was suspended and there are still cases pending from last year, we can expect a long wait for approvals this year. Once premium processing opens up in September, your employer can upgrade at that time. We also expect a higher number of RFEs (Request for Evidence) again this year as USCIS is interpreting the definition of specialty occupation more strictly.