USCIS announced that it will start accepting H-1B visa petition subject to the H-1B cap for Fiscal Year 2011 on April 1, 2010. The earliest start date under this program is October 1, 2010. There are 65,000 H-1B visa numbers available each year pursuant to the bachelor’s cap and an additional 20,000 numbers for those with a master’s degree from a US institution. If the demand exceeds the cap, then USCIS will subject petitions received by a cut-off date to a random computerized lottery. For those petitions that do not receive a number, USCIS will return these petitions along with the filing fees and without prejudice.
Certain petitions are cap exempt and these are for beneficiaries working at: (1) institutions of higher education or affiliated nonprofit entities, (2) nonprofit research organizations and (3) governmental research organizations. Also, for those individuals who have been counted against the cap within the past six years, and have not departed the US for more than one year, are not subject to the cap. These individuals include those extending or amending their status, changing employers or filing concurrent petitions.
Based on last year’s track record, during which time the cap was not reached until December 2009, and the continuing sluggishness of our economy, it is doubtful that we will reach the cap in April 2010. However, I would not venture to bet when we do reach it.