USCIS confirmed today that they are still accepting petitions for both the H-1B cap and the master’s cap categories. They estimated that they have received half of the H-1B Cap petitions and most of the master’s cap petitions needed to reach the cap in both categories. Regarding cases filed under the premium processing program, USCIS will either adjudicate them or issue requests for evidence no later than April 22, 2009. USCIS will begin issuing receipt notices for H-1B cap cases as of today, although they have acknowledge that they have inadvertently issued some valid receipt notices earlier. This year would mark the first time the 20,000 H-1B US masters cap will be reached prior to the 65,000 H-1B cap. The latter only requires a bachelor degree or equivalent, whereas the master’s cap requires US masters degree. This is consistent with the current difficult economic conditions where the more educated and more skilled are better able to find jobs. USCIS has experienced this year more than 60% drop in H-1B petitions from last year. During the same time, last year USCIS received 163,000 petitions that competed for the available 85,000 visas using a lottery system. This year the best estimate is that USCIS received approximately 50,000 applications leaving approximately 35,000 visas available for fiscal year 2010.