H-1B numbers will soon be depleted according to figures recently released by the government. Once depleted, H-1B numbers will not become available until October 1, 2007. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that as of May 16, 2006, 39,445 H-1B petitions have either been approved or are in line to be processed against the 58,200 cap for Fiscal Year 2007 (FY2007), which begins October 1, 2006. This announcement comes after a May 12, 2006 announcement that the number was 34,808. The sharp increase in only three business days signals heavy usage in the category. Employers should immediately consider, in consultation with counsel, whether to petition for H-1B status on behalf of employees who will require a new H-1B number prior to October 1, 2007. Likely candidates are new hires from abroad and employees in F-1, J-1, or TN status for whom an H-1B is desired. The cap only limits new applications for H-1B classifications within the fiscal year, and does not apply to extension applications or concurrent applications. Please also note that not all petitions for new H-1B employment are subject to the limitations of the cap (e.g., employees of institutions of higher education). Additionally, 6,800 numbers are reserved specifically for nationals of Singapore and Chile pursuant to Free Trade Agreements authorized by the President. Australian nationals can seek E-3 status, which is capped at 10,000. There are also 20,000 numbers put aside for employees who hold a U.S. master's or higher degree. This category, however, has seen steady usage - As of May 16, 2006, 5,048 H-1B petitions for candidates holding a U.S. master's or higher have either been approved or are in line to be processed against the 20,000 cap. For further details on cap count for non-immigrant worker visas as of May 19, 2006, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.