Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest indications about H-1B reform from the White House and the number of H-1B petitions for 2017.
Columbia University alumnus Hongli Lan will have no choice but to leave the United States if he loses the H-1B visa lottery again this year.
The young Chinese quantitative analyst, who says he graduated in 2014 with a master's degree in Mathematics of Finance and GPA of 3.9, was just ready to get his feet wet on Wall Street before a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) notified him of the H-1B lottery rejection.
"Certainly it's not fair," Lan told CNBC. "Chances of winning the lottery are too low for Chinese students and I don't see how the current system benefits high-skilled workers."
The H-1B non-immigrant visa program is meant for specialized workers attached to local employers who say they cannot find enough American employees with the right skills. But because of the high interest in those passes, a lottery system chooses who gets a visa.
And to further complicate matters for visa-seekers, President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order asking agencies to look into changing the program so as to encourage more domestic hiring of American citizens. (For what it's worth, firms are required to attest that they pay H-1B recipients the same wages they would have for a similar American employee.)