The filing period for “new” H-1B petitions to be counted against the annual H-1B quota (the “H-1B cap”) begins on April 1, 2009. Persons currently employed as F-1 students or J-1 trainees and persons outside of the United States commonly require new, cap-subject H-1Bs. April 1 is the initial filing date for petitions seeking H-1B status with an effective date of October 1, 2009. (Cases actually need to be mailed on March 31 to ensure receipt by USCIS on April 1.)

The annual limit for new H-1Bs is 65,000 (less 6,800 set aside for citizens/nationals of Chile or Singapore) with an additional 20,000 H-1Bs available for petitions involving persons who possess a Master’s or higher degree from a U.S. academic institution. When more applications are received in the initial days of filing than there are available visa numbers, a lottery is conducted using a computer generated “random selection” process. It is likely that a lottery will be necessary this year as well.

As cases can sometimes take several weeks to analyze and prepare, for example due to delays in the Department of Labor processing the required Labor Condition Application (LCA), it is important that employers identify any potential H-1B cases as soon as possible. This can ensure a timely mailing of the petition on March 31.