The U.S. has received only 13,500 applications in the first week for H-1B visa, the most sought after work visa by Indian IT professionals, as against the mandated cap of 65,000 reflecting the poor employment market in that country.

The Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as mandated by the U.S. Congress, started receiving H-1B applications from April 1 for fiscal 2011 beginning October 1, 2010.

Figures of the applications received in the first week were released by the USCIS on Thursday, which is almost one third of the total applications received by the agency last year.

A year ago, when thousands of people were handed pink slips, the USCIS had received 42,000 H-1B applications under the Congressional mandated quota of 65,000. In the advanced degree category where the quota was 20,000, the USCIS had received about similar number of applications.

However, this year the USCIS in the first week had received approximately 5,600 petitions for individuals with advanced degree, the agency said in a media release on Thursday.

“USCIS has received approximately 13,500 H-1B petitions counting toward the 65,000 cap,” it said, adding that it will monitor the number of petitions received for both the 65,000 general cap and the 20,000 US master’s degree or higher educational exemption.

Last year the USCIS took 265 days to reach the mandated cap of 65,000 in general category and 20,000 in advanced degree category.

In 2009, both the quota was filled up on the first day itself as it received several times the number of Congressional mandated quota. In 2008, the general quota was oversubscribed on the second day while the advanced degree was filled up in 30 days.

“Should USCIS receive the necessary number of petitions to meet the cap, it will issue an update to advise the public, that the FY 2011 H-1B cap has been met as of a certain date (the ‘final receipt date’). The final receipt date will be based on the date USCIS physically receives the petition, not the date that the petition has been postmarked. The date USCIS informs the public that the cap has been reached may differ from the actual final receipt date,” it said.

“To ensure a fair system, USCIS may randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit from the petitions received on the final receipt date. USCIS will reject cap subject petitions that are not selected, as well as those received after the final receipt date,” it said.

The agency said petitions filed by employers who are exempt from the cap or petitions filed on behalf of the current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap within the past six years will not count toward the Congressionally mandated H-1B cap.