On April 1, 2010, U.S. employers may again file H-1B (specialty occupational professional) work visa petitions soliciting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") approval that will be effective on October 1, 2010, the first day of the next federal year. The H-1B visa category, which includes a total of 85,000 "slots" per fiscal year, reached its limit for FY2010 on December 21, 2009.

Although the FY2010 cap was not reached during the first week of April 2009 as it had been in recent years, this is still an important time for employers to consider filing H-1B cases for FY2011. Filing early will best secure H-1B status for new hires and changes of status for existing employees who have time-limited work authorizations, such as L-1 intracompany transferees.

H-1B status is valuable for those employees who will be sponsored for permanent resident (green card) status because they may be eligible for extensions of H-1B status beyond the usual limit of six years. Given the considerable delays in the government's handling of permanent resident cases, the extended ability to maintain work authorization in the H-1B category is particularly valuable.