U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") has confirmed that it will reopen the filing period for Fiscal Year 2005 and begin processing H-1B petitions under the H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004 ("2004 Act") on May 12, 2005, subject to timely publication of the regulation. The applicable provisions of the 2004 Act makes available an additional 20,000 new H-1B numbers which are considered exempt from the H-1B cap. These H-1B numbers are specifically limited to those foreign nationals who have received a master's or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education.
The USCIS Notice provides that on or after May 12, 2005, USCIS will consider qualified H-1B petitions requesting start dates for Fiscal Year 2005 (those starting before Oct. 1, 2005) and directs that all such petitions should be filed with the Vermont Service Center. USCIS will also consider "upgrades" to a Fiscal Year 2005 number for qualified H-1B petitions which were filed for Fiscal Year 2006 numbers.
Given the anticipated volume of cases to be filed, it is likely that the 20,000 new H-1B numbers will be used within the first day or two of the filing period.