U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") reports that as of January 26, 2011, it had reached the cap on new H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2011 and will reject any petitions it receives after that date.

Employers rely on H-1B status to temporarily employ foreign workers in the United States in "specialty occupations," which are positions that require a U.S. bachelor's degree or its equivalent. 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 from a U.S. institution are exempt from the regular 65,000 cap. Under the advanced degree exemption, USCIS can process a maximum of 20,000 additional petitions.

At this time, both the regular and the advanced degree caps have been met. Accordingly, no more new H-1B petitions will be processed for this fiscal year. In April 2011, employers can begin to file H-1B petitions for workers to start work in the new fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2011.

Some petitions are exempt from the annual H-1B cap. Alternatively, prospective hires may be eligible for other visa categories. Please contact us if you need assistance in obtaining work authorization for a foreign national.