As most H-1B employers know, there is an annual quota on the number of new H-1B petitions that can be approved each federal fiscal year. The quota is 65,000 for regular H-1B petitions, plus another 20,000 for H-1B petitions filed for foreign nationals ("FNs") who have obtained a master's degree or higher from an accredited American university. The federal government's fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30, so fiscal year 2013 will begin on October 1, 2012. Employers were eligible to start filing H-1B petitions toward the fiscal year 2013 quota on April 2, 2012, but they cannot secure a start date prior to October 1, 2012.
On April 9, 2012, the USCIS indicated that it had received approximately 17,400 H-1B cap cases, and about 8,200 H-1B cases that count toward the master's cap. This is almost double what the USCIS received last year during the same period. Last year, the H-1B cap was reached in November 2011. At the present pace, the 2013 cap will be reached substantially sooner this year, so employers planning on filing new H-1B cases should not delay.