According to recent postings (April 15 and 18, 2005) on AILA's website the following are an update on the H-1B filings.
The latest news regarding the H-1B filing has been that USCIS Service Centers received instructions to separate out all U.S. advanced degree H-1Bs filed for FY06 (October 1) start dates, and the USCIS will give an immediate start date to those such cases requesting and eligible for a FY05 start date, as soon as they are authorized to do so.
At the same time there are a few reports that the Texas Service Center premium processing unit has approved some H-1B petitions for immediate (FY05) start dates in the cases of individuals possessing advanced U.S. degrees. It's not clear whether these approvals were deliberate or in error. Note that these approvals have been issued in cases which have designated an October 1 start date on the H-1B petition, but have been annotated very clearly that the petitioner requests an immediate start date should FY05 numbers become available. Note also that the LCA must have an immediate start date for an approval with an immediate start date to be issued by USCIS.
AILA's liaison has learned that the regulation implementing the 20,000 H-1Bs has encountered further delays at OMB. It remains unclear when the rule will be published, and whether it will allow filing for all H-1B-eligible beneficiaries or only those with a U.S. masters degree or higher.