On April 9, 2010, USCIS announced that in the first week of accepting cap-subject H-1B filings for FY 2011, only 13,500 petitions had been received against the 65,000 regular cap and only 5,600 against the 20,000 master’s cap.

New H-1B visas are generally limited to 65,000 per fiscal year, with an extra 20,000 available to certain individuals with advanced degrees (the master’s cap). The fiscal year begins on October 1, and petitions are accepted beginning April 1.

The first week’s filings represent the fewest H-1B petitions initially filed in several years. In previous years, USCIS had received a substantially greater number of petitions on April 1 than H-1Bs available. Such a situation required lotteries to determine which petitions would be accepted for adjudication. The last lottery was held in 2008, when USCIS received over 160,000 initial H-1B petitions.

No lottery was held last year, where after the first week of filing, USCIS had received over 30,000 regular cap petitions and close to 20,000 master’s cap petitions. USCIS continued to accept applications for new H-1Bs until the limit was reached on December 21, 2009.

It appears that employers now have some flexibility in bringing on new H-1B workers for a start date of October 1, 2010 or later.