H1B Cap Filings Similar to Last Fiscal Year

The H1B cap filings were light in early April 2011, which was anticipated. The fiscal year (FY) 2012 cap filing season began April 1, 2011. As explained here, the cap-subject filings may continue from the present through FY12, until the cap numbers are all utilized. Levels for the initial period of filing are similar to those experienced in FY11.

Background: H1B Cap and H1B Lottery in Prior Years

The annual limit on the number of new H1B cases that can be approved generally is referred to as the cap. This limit is 65,000. There are 20,000 additional cap exemptions for individuals with advanced degrees (master’s degree level or above) from accredited U.S. universities and colleges. The cap numbers become available at the beginning of each government fiscal year, on October 1st. Thus, FY12 will start October 1, 2011. H1B cases can be filed six months in advance of the requested employment start date. The earliest cap filings, therefore, may be made on the preceding April 1st.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) counts all the cases received within the first five days of filing. If the cases received during this initial filing period exceed the cap, a lottery is held to select those that will be accepted. This occurred in FY08 and FY09, but not in FY10 or FY11; nor during the current FY12 filing season. The USCIS is therefore continuing to accept H1B cap-subject petitions as of this writing. Periodic announcements regarding the FY12 cap count will be released by the USCIS until the cap is reached.

H1B Filings Continue Until Cap Reached

The first day of H1B cap filing (April 1st) is clear. The last date for filing, however, depends upon the number of H1B cases filed with the USCIS. In FY10, the cap remained open until December 21, 2009. In FY11, the cap was not reached until January 26, 2011. The factors contributing to the overall decline in H1B cap filings are primarily the economy and USCIS policy and procedural changes that make H1B case approvals much more difficult. So far, it appears that the FY12 H1B cap experience will be similar to that of fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

FY12 H1B Cap Count

The FY12 initial case volume is similar to FY11. The first cap count, including cases filed through April 7, 2011 contained only 10,400 cases. These were divided into 5,900 cases against the “regular” H1B cap limit of 65,000 and 4,500 case filed against the 20,000 advanced-degree cap exemptions.

The FY12 filings can be compared to a count for the same timeframe in FY11, when the first five days of filing yielded 9,525 cases. Of these, 2,734 were filed against the advanced-degree cap and the remaining 6,791 were filed against the regular cap.


The longer duration of the cap season works to the benefit of both H1B employers and their potential employees. Many employers cannot make employment commitments six months in advance of the employment start date. As October 1st approaches, employers are more likely to be able to make real-world hiring decisions and commit to an H1B filing for an H1B employee seeking employment. Useful information and updates on the FY12 H1B cap count will be shared with MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers when it becomes available.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.