The immigration regulations allow H-1B petitions to be filed up to six months before H-1B employment is to commence. Beginning on April 1, 2004, therefore, petitions with employment start dates of October 1, 2004 or later may be filed; these cases will count against the numerical cap for Fiscal Year 2005, which begins on October 1, 2004. It is conceivable that, absent a legislative fix, all FY 2005 cap numbers could be exhausted before the new fiscal year even begins.
It is crucial that employers begin H-1B planning for Fiscal Year 2005 and consider filing H-1B cases as soon as possible, particularly given how quickly H-1B numbers were exhausted for FY 2004. The H-1B cases may be filed regular processing and although the case may not be adjudicated until summer, it should be safely in the queue and adjudicated before FY 2005 H-1B cap is reached.