It is time to start thinking about filing your H-1B applications for 2010. As the fiscal year for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) starts on October 1st each year, October 1, 2009 is the start date for new (2010) H-1B work visas. A cap-subject H-1B can be filed no earlier than April 1, 2009, with a requested start date for the H-1B petition no earlier than October 1, 2009.

The H-1B limit, or "cap," is the number of H-1B cases that can be approved each year as "new" H-1B filings. The annual limit on H-1B cap-subject approvals is 65,000, with a separate allocation of 20,000 cap exemptions for beneficiaries who hold U.S. masters' degrees or higher. The cap is a concern for persons seeking to enter the U.S. for the first time on an H-1B.

Last year the cap was reached on the first day of filing, and new H-1B work visas were issued based on a lottery. It is therefore imperative that new H-1B applications be prepared in advance so that they are submitted on April 1, 2009.