Employers rely on H-1B status to temporarily employ foreign workers in the U.S. in "specialty occupations," which are those for which a bachelor's degree or its equivalent is an entry-level requirement.

The number of H-1B petitions that may be approved in each fiscal year (which runs from October 1 to September 30) is capped at 65,000. Petitions for workers with advanced degrees (master's degree or higher from a U.S. institution) are exempt from the regular 65,000 cap. Under the advanced degree exemption, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") can process a maximum of 20,000 petitions.

USCIS has reported that as of January 21, 2011, it has accepted 62,800 H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2011. USCIS has already received over 20,000 petitions for workers with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions and will continue to accept these petitions and count them toward the regular cap of 65,000 until that cap is reached.

Accordingly, employers that wish to apply for H-1B status for workers to begin work during fiscal year 2011 are encouraged to immediately file their petitions. Petitions foreclosed by this year's cap may be filed on April 1 for work dates beginning on October 1, 2011. Please contact us if you have any questions or need assistance.