H-1B Cap Count – Are We There Yet?

The H-1B “Cap Count” refers to the periodic account of cases filed under the professional worker H-1B cap of 65,000 for the fiscal year or 20,000 extra for those who have obtained Masters Degree or higher in the US.

Why do we care? We care because once the cap is “hit” there will be no more H-1B visas handed out for the rest of the fiscal year, regardless of how great a foreign professional worker you have or how needy the employer. The cap is the cap, is the cap – no exceptions. Right now the cap is nearing 65,000 (at 57,000 plus) and many are predicting the cap to be reached by the end of this month, which is realistic.

In general terms, a new H-1B worker who wants to file an initial H-1B or is moving from a cap exempt organization to a cap organization will NOT be eligible to work in H-1B status until earliest October 1, 2011. (The government fiscal year is Oct 1 to September 30th.)

Since the Great Recession, the time it has taken to reach the H-1B cap has been much longer than in previous years, which for instance in FY2007-2008, was in a few days. And therefore, not much political pressure to increase the cap. However, certain sectors of the economy are always in need of foreign workers, such as healthcare, and our country has “hit” the cap every single year since the cap limit was reduced from 195,000 to 65,000 after FY2003. As the economy hopefully picks up steam in 2011, it will be interesting to see what kind of pressure it will put on Congress to address the cap limit, which only Congress can change.

However, the terms “Congress” and “change” do not really go well together anymore. And the unlikely politico-economic climate to increase foreign labor opportunities as many US citizens still suffer from lack of employment, is a political no-go for many Congress persons – Democrats and Republicans.

Stay tuned in to some other non-immigrant visa categories that may fit your professional workers and tuned in to some workers who are already considered “cap exempt,” in order to deal with this reality.