U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced last week that it had received nearly 58,000 petitions toward the 65,000 annual H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2011 (FY 2011). In addition, USCIS announced it had reached the separate 20,000 visa cap for those applicants with a U.S. master's degree or higher. Going forward, cases filed for those with advanced U.S. degrees will be counted against the regular cap until the 65,000 limit has been reached.
No one can predict with certainty when the cap will be reached, but employers needing new H-1B visas during this fiscal year are urged to act immediately to secure one of the approximately 7,000 remaining visa slots. A petition must be filed with USCIS before it announces that cap has been reached in order for the visa to be available this fiscal year. We anticipate the cap will be reached within the next few weeks.
Once the FY 2011 cap has been reached, employers seeking new cap-subject H-1B filings must look toward fiscal year 2012 (FY 2012). FY 2012 begins on October 1, 2011, but since H-1B cases can be filed six months in advance of the requested start date, filings for the FY 2012 cap will commence on April 1, 2011. All FY 2011 cap filings, however, may request a start date no earlier than October 1, 2011.
The H-1B visa cap does not apply to H-1B renewals with the same employer or to H-1B "transfer" petitions when an H-1B employee is changing jobs from one H-1B cap-subject employer to another. Finally, certain organizations such as post-secondary educational institutions and related or affiliated non-profit entities are exempt from the cap.