On August 12, 2005, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the annual quota (cap) of H-1B numbers available for Fiscal Year 2006 (FY2006) has been reached. USCIS has determined that the final receipt date is August 10, 2005. Any petitions received on that date will be entered in a random drawing. There are, however, still limited numbers of H-1B visas for applicants who hold a Masters Degree or higher from a U.S. institution, as well as for nationals from Chile and Singapore. In addition, the new E-3 visa should enable Australian citizens to work based on the same basic criteria as the H-1B visa, as soon as regulations are promulgated.
Now that the 2006 cap has been reached, the first available start date for new H-1B applicants subject to the 2007 cap is October 1, 2006. The earliest possible filing date for that start date is April 1, 2006. Never before has the H-1B cap been reached prior to the beginning of the Fiscal Year in which numbers are available, and this unprecedented event will have a wide ranging effect on United States businesses.