The earliest date to file for an H-1B employment start date of October 01, 2009, is April 01, 2009. Congress has placed an annual cap of 65,000 on the number of H-1B visas that may be issued each government fiscal year (October 01 to September 30). In addition to the 65,000 regular H-1B cap, 20,000 additional visa numbers are available for qualifying applicants with a US Masters Degree or higher.
Companies who plan to sponsor H-1B workers for the coming fiscal year (with employment start dates of October 1, 2010 or later) should therefore prepare for filing as soon as possible to have a better chance of obtaining an H-1B visa number during the coming fiscal year, FY2010. The first possible date to file a FY2010 petition is six months in advance of the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1), or April 1.
Although H-1B visa’s will likely be in lower demand for the coming year than they have been the last several years, it is still likely that the annual H-1B quota will eventually be full before the end of the next fiscal year (October 1, 2009, to September 30, 2009). So, to prevent being locked out of the H-1B visa program until October 2010, employers should file as soon as possible on or after the April 01, 2009, opening date.
Note that some employer sponsors are exempt from the annual H-1B cap, including institutions of higher education and their affiliates, and government research organizations. However, most private employers and some non-profits are subject to the annual H-1B cap, and therefore, must be careful attention to the annual H-1B cap and filing date schedule.