Employers are advised that H-1B visa numbers remain available for fiscal year 2012, but the numbers are starting to be claimed at a faster pace than previously seen this year. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that, as of October 7, 2011, approximately 41,000 H-1B cap subject petitions have been received and counted towards the 65,000 H-1B cap. USCIS has also received approximately 19,100 petitions needed to meet the 20,000 cap for foreign workers with U.S. advanced degrees. Until USCIS announces that the respective caps have been met, employers can continue to file H-1B temporary worker petitions.

The continued availability of H-1B visa numbers presents a great opportunity for employers to meet their hiring needs for the coming year. The H-1B visa is one of the few nonimmigrant visa options available to employers seeking to fill openings in "specialty" occupations. Given the faster pace that H-1B visa numbers are being claimed, we encourage employers to consider their hiring needs and start interviewing potential H-1B candidates and finalizing job offers immediately. Once the H-1B cap is reached, employers will not be able to obtain new H-1Bs until October 1, 2012.

It is important to remember that the cap only applies to new H-1B cases, and not to extensions of H-1B status or a transfer of an H-1B visa from one employer to another. The cap does, however, affect those foreign nationals who are in H-1B status seeking to work for new employers, but who are currently exempt from the cap based on employment with an institution of higher education or not-for-profit or governmental research organization.

If you are considering the hiring of a foreign worker who will need H-1B sponsorship, we encourage you to contact one of our immigration attorneys as soon as possible to review your hiring plans. In the meantime, we will continue to provide you with the latest developments on the H-1B numbers.