The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would from Thursday accept receiving petitions for H-1B visa applications - the most sought after US work visa by Indian IT professionals - for the fiscal 2011 beginning October 1, 2010.

As mandated by the US Congress, the fiscal year cap (numerical limitation on H-1B petitions) for 2011 is 65,000.

Additionally, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals who have earned a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the H-1B cap.

The USCIS has not announced any cut off date for accepting the visa petitions; as was the practice till the year before when the US agency used to receive applications several times the number mandated by the Congress and had to resort to computerized draw of lots to identify successful applicants.

“USCIS will monitor the number of petitions received and will notify the public of the date on which USCIS received the necessary number of petitions to meet the H-1B cap,” an official media release said.

Even as there is signs of revival of US economy, but the continued high unemployment rate is likely to result in much longer time to fill up the pool of 65,000 H-1B visas for 2011 could, similar to last year’s scenario in which the number of petitions for 2010 H-1Bs didn’t get near the cap until December 2009.

“If needed, USCIS will 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 USCIS said petitions for new H-1B employment are exempt from the annual cap if the beneficiaries will work at institutions of higher education or related or affiliated non-profit entities, non-profit research organisations or governmental research organisations.

Petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries who will work only in Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands are exempt from the cap until December 31, 2014.

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