On November 23, 2004, USCIS published the official Federal Register notice that the FY 2005 H-1B cap had been reached as of October 1, 2004. The entire supply of FY 2005 H-1B slots had already been allocated by the first day of the fiscal year, to employers who had filed FY 2005 petitions in the six months preceding the start of the fiscal year. The notice also temporarily suspends e-filing for I-129 petitions, and includes instructions on how H-1B petitions will be processed until new H-1B numbers become available on October 1, 2005, the beginning of the next fiscal year. The notice does not include any provisions granting extensions of duration of status for F-1 students; unless DHS publishes a separate notice granting such extensions, students will be treated under the same processing guidelines as all other applicants for H-1B status.

On October 2, 2004, USCIS Service Centers stopped accepting for adjudication any cap-subject H-1B petition for new employment containing a request for a work start date prior to October 1, 2005. Such petitions filed on or after that date will be returned (along with applicable filing fees) to the petitioner unprocessed, and will not be recognized as having been accepted for filing. Petitions returned under this policy may be refiled on or after April 1, 2005, with a new starting date of October 1, 2005 or later, and will count against the FY 2006 cap.

On a separate note, on November 21, 2004, Congress passed a bill entitled The L-1 and H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004, that will add 20,000 "cap-exempt" slots for H-1B applicants with a master's or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education. The above-referenced H-1B cap notice does not address this new supply of numbers. After that bill is signed into law, DHS will publish procedures on how employers can file H-1B petitions for such individuals. AMDOC#: 200411011