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On July 28, 2006, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-1B cap for individuals who have earned an advanced degree (e.g. Master’s or higher) from a U.S. college or university has been reached. For fiscal year 2007, the regular H-1B cap of 65,000 H-1B visas for professionals possessing the minimum of a baccalaureate degree was filled on May 26, 2006. The 20,000 additional H-1B visas reserved for individuals holding advanced degrees from U.S. institutions are now unavailable as well. H-1B visas are still available for citizens of Chile and Singapore, and E-3 visas are available for degreed professionals from Australia.

Unless Congress passes legislation that increases the H-1B cap for FY2007, the earliest employers will be able to petition for a new H-1B visa would be October 1, 2007. These petitions can be filed with USCIS as early as April 1, 2007, and we do encourage employers to file early to ensure that a non-immigrant visa will be available at the start of the 2008 fiscal year.

Remember, the cap only applies to new H-1B cases, and not to extensions of an H-1B visa or a transfer of an H-1B visa from employer to another. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about how these numbers might impact upon your company’s hiring of foreign nationals.