The USCIS just announced that as of September 25, 2009, only 46,700 fiscal year 2010 H-1B petitions subject to the H-1B cap had been filed. With up to 65,000 cap-subject H-1B numbers available each fiscal year, there are still some 18,300 H-1B numbers left for FY 2010 (October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010). And, they are immediately available! This is great news, and means that you can still make offers of employment to foreign national professionals.
It also means that you can now file H-1B petitions for your current employees who are in F-1 (student) optional practical training (OPT) status. Most students in OPT status have employment authorization cards that will not expire until May or June 2010, and are authorized to work for you until that time. If you file H-1B petitions for them now, asking for a start date that can be up to six months in the future, you will be virtually assured of capturing a number. But if, instead, you wait until April 1, 2010 to file H-1B petitions for them for fiscal year 2011 numbers, you may be out of luck. If the economy picks up, and business starts humming again, the demand for H-1B numbers will increase, and we may be back in that untenable position where all numbers are used up on April 1, 2010, the first day permitted for filing.