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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that, between April 1, 2009, and April 7, 2009, it received almost half of the 65,000 petitions needed to meet the fiscal year 2010 cap. USCIS has also received "just short" of the 20,000 petitions needed to meet the cap for foreign workers with U.S. advanced degrees. Official numbers have not been released at this time, but USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions until the respective caps have been met. Any petitions received on the day that the respective caps have been met (i.e., the "final receipt day") will be selected for adjudication based on a random lottery process. 

Last year, the 65,000 cap was reached within the first five business days of filing. This looks to be the first year that the advanced degree cap will be reached before the regular cap. The troubled economy seems to be playing a big factor in the number and types of H-1B petitions received this year. With fewer U.S. worker shortages overall, the demand for foreign workers with only bachelor's degrees is less. Demand remains high, however, for foreign workers with advanced degrees in highly specialized fields. While both caps are still expected to be reached, the numbers so far appear to reflect the realities of the job market.  

It is important to remember that the cap applies only 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 a university or not-for-profit or governmental research organization.   

We encourage employers to carefully consider their hiring needs for the coming year. Once the H-1B cap is reached, employers will not be able to obtain new H-1Bs until October 1, 2010. If you are considering the hiring of a foreign worker who will need H-1B sponsorship, please contact any of our immigration attorneys immediately to review your hiring plans. In the meantime, we will continue to provide you with the latest developments on the H-1B numbers.