By Dimo R. Michailov, Esq.|September 9th, 2015|Articles, EB-2, EB-3, News, News Alert, Visa Bulletin|

The U.S. State Department has just released the October 2015 Visa Bulletin which is the first Visa Bulletin for the new FY2016 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the significant restructuring of the Visa Bulletin cutoff system and the introduction of “approval” and “filing” cutoff dates which are likely to allow many applicants from retrogressed countries to file I-485 applications.

September 25, 2015 Update:  Please note that the October 2015 Visa Bulletin was revised in material way.  Please see our article on the revisions.

Creation of Two-Tier Cutoff Date System To Allow Earlier NVC/I-485 Filings

With the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, the Department of State (DOS) is introducing a two-tier cutoff system which is intended to allow applicants from oversubscribed countries and categories to possibly advance their immigrant cases even when there may not be a visa number available to them.

The “Application Final Action Dates” tier (which is consistent with prior Visa Bulletins) is the cutoff date which would determine when a pending I-485 or NVC/Consular immigrant case can be approved.   The idea is for DOS to be able to track much more closely the use and availability of visa numbers so that the “Application Final Action Date” would reflect a more accurate date as to when a green card can be approved.

What is the major change is the introduction of “Dates for Filing Visa Applications” cutoff date.  This will be used by USCIS to indicate that there are more immigrant visas available for the fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas.   When this is the case, the Visa Bulletin would indicate a cutoff date for Filing Visa Applications which is earlier (by few years in many cases) than the “Application Final Action Date” and this would allow those applicants whose priority date earlier than the applicable Filing Visa Applications date to prepare and file their I-485 application.     Even though an approval of the I-485 cannot happen until the Application Final Action Date becomes current, the ability to file I-485 is going to provide an opportunity for family members to obtain work authorization and travel permits, in addition to the ability of the primary I-485 applicant to port their green card case to a new employer under AC21 after 180 days.

Note that the language in the Visa Bulletin seems to suggest that the ability to file I-485s with a priority date earlier than the Filing Visa Applications cutoff date may not be available all of the time.

USCIS has determined that this chart may be used (in lieu of the chart in paragraph 5.A.) this month for filing applications for adjustment of status with USCIS. (emphasis added)

This paragraph seems to suggest that not only the Filing Visa Applications cutoff dates are likely to move but also the ability to file I-485s with USCIS does not appear to be guaranteed every months.    We believe that DOS and USCIS and using this language to reserving the ability to stop I-485 filings during a specific time period.    We will monitor and seek clarifications on this point and report later as we have more information.

But back to the good news – those applicants with a priority date earlier than the Filing Visa Applications cutoff date are eligible to process their case and file I-485s as of the first of the month (October).

Summary of the October 2015 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based (EB)

Below is a summary of the October 2015 Visa Bulletin with respect to the employment-based categories:

Employment Application Final Action Dates (determines when an I-485 or IV can be approved)

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India retrogresses by eight (8) months back to May 1, 2005.  EB-2 China moves forward by six (6) years (!) to January 1, 2012.
  • EB-3 ROW and Mexico remain unchanged at August 15, 2015 which is almost current.   EB-3 Philippines has advanced by two (2) years to January 1, 2007.   EB-3 China  also advances by almost seven (7) years (!) to October 15, 2011.  EB-3 India  goes back by about nine (9) months to March 8, 2004.
  • The “Other Worker” (EB-3) categories for ROW and Mexico remain unchanged at August 15, 2015 which is almost current.   Philippines has advanced by two (2) years to January 1, 2007.   EB-3 China  also advances by two (2) years to January 1, 2006.  Finally, India  goes back by about nine (9) months to March 8, 2004.
  • EB-5 China advances by two (2) weeks to October 8, 2013.

Dates for Filing Employment Visa Applications (determines when an I-485 can be filed)

  • EB-1 is current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India is set at July 1, 2011.   EB-2 China is set to May 1, 2014.
  • EB-3 ROW and Mexico are set at September 1, 2015 (which is almost current).   EB-3 Philippines is set at January 1, 2015.  EB-3 China is set at October 1, 2013.   EB-3 India  is set at July 1, 2005.
  • “Other Workers” (EB-3) ROW and Mexico are set at September 1, 2015 (which is almost current).   Philippines is set at January 1, 2015.  China is set at January 1, 2007.   India  is set at July 1, 2005.
  • EB-5 China is set at May 1, 2015.

September 25, 2015 Update:  Please note that the October 2015 Visa Bulletin was revised in material way.  Please see our article on the revisions.

Summary of the October 2015 Visa Bulletin – Family-Based (FB)

Below is a summary of the October 2015 Visa Bulletin with respect to some family-based categories:

Application Final Action Dates (determines when an I-485 or IV can be approved)

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India move forward by one (1) month to January 15, 2008, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by one (1) week to November 22, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by seven (7) months to June 1, 2001.
  • FB-2A moves forward again — this month the forward movement is by one and a half (1.5) months to April 15, 2014 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It moves forward by one (1) month to March 1, 2014 for Mexico.

Dates for Filing Visa Applications (determines when an I-485 can be filed)

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India are set at May 1, 2009.   FB-1 Mexico is set at July 1, 1995 and FB-1 Philippines is set at September 1, 2005.
  • FB-2A for all countries is set at March 1, 2015.

First Visa Bulletin For the Fiscal Year Brings Many Changes

The first Visa Bulletin for the new fiscal year always brings hope for good news and good forward movements in the cutoff dates.  This October Visa Bulletin goes beyond what we normally see at this time of the year.   The creation of the two-tier cutoff date system is something which we hope will allow many applicants from the retrogressed countries to move their case forward and obtain the benefits of a pending I-485 (where applicable) while at the same time provide a more stable “approval” date movement which, in turn, would create some predictability on how long one may have to wait for approval.

Live Chat and Webinar Sessions – Discussion and Analysis of the New Visa Bulletin Structure and How to Best Take Advantage of the New Two-Tier System

Our office is scheduling a series of events to discuss and analyze the restructuring of the Visa Bulletin cutoff date system and help our readers and clients understand how to best take advantage of the new category of cutoff dates.

  • Live Chat – Thursday, September 10, 2015, at 3 pm eastern time.    Join now or set a reminder.
  • Webinar – Monday, September 14, 2015, at 1 pm eastern time.   FREE registration but space is limited so please register now.

Additionally, we will be providing additional updates and alerts as there are more details about this change – if you haven’t already, please sign up for our newsletter.

Current “Date for Filing Applications”?

Our office stands ready to assist in the applicable process to take advantage of the significant restructuring in the way the cutoff dates are determined and published.    While many Indian applicants with pending I-485s may be disappointed that there is not much movement in the Application Final Action Dates, there will be many applicants across many categories who can now process their (and their family members’) I-485 Adjustment of Status applications from within the U.S. or process their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can help you take advantage of this (very time-sensitive for some) opportunity to file I-485 applications.    We are also happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application.

Further Updates and News

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about the October 2015 Visa Bulletin.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.