The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Jan. 27, 2011, that it had received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2011. USCIS announced that Jan. 26, 2011, was the final day it accepted H-1B petitions that requested an employment start date in fiscal year 2011, which ends Sept. 30, 2011. As H-1B petitions can be filed six months in advance of the start date, USCIS will begin on April 1, 2011, to accept H-1B petitions requesting fiscal year 2012 employment start dates.
The number of H-1B visas that can be issued for new employment in any federal fiscal year is currently capped at 58,200, plus any of the 6,800 H-1B1 visas set aside for Chilean and Singaporean citizens not used during the prior fiscal year. For fiscal year 2011, 6,350 unused H-1B1 visa numbers were added to the total, which brought it to 64,550. In addition, 20,000 H-1B petitions for foreign nationals with U.S.-earned master’s or higher degrees are annually exempted from the cap.
Various categories of H-1B petitions are not subject to the annual cap. Employers can file H-1B petitions in those categories at any time of the year, and are not limited to requesting any particular starting date for employment. The categories include petitions to:
- Extend the time a current H-1B worker remains in the United States.
- Change the terms of employment for a current H-1B worker.
- Allow a current H-1B worker to change employers (unless the change is from a cap-exempt to a cap-subject employer).
- Allow a current H-1B worker to work concurrently under a new H-1B petition for a second employer.
- Request new employment for an institution of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, or for a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization.