The monthly visa bulletin issued by the Department of State is one of the most closely watched and anticipated government communications in the immigration community. We receive instant updates and are able to comment and analyze each visa bulletin promptly upon its issuance. Our clients benefit from our visa bulletin efforts by knowing as early in advance as possible about the potential benefits and developments that may arise from forward or backward movements in the visa numbers. If you would like to learn more about our immigration law practice or if you would like to request our services, please contact us. Additionally, you can subscribe to our email newsletter to receive visa bulletin updates via email as soon as they are available to us.
The U.S. State Department has just released the February 2017 Visa Bulletin which is the fifth Visa Bulletin for the new FY2017 fiscal year. The headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the slow forward movement across many categories, including the lack of any movement in EB-2 India. EB-3 China continues to have a more favorable cutoff date than EB-2 China which creates favorable conditions for EB-2 to EB-3 China downgrades.
The U.S. State Department has just released the November 2016 Visa Bulletin which is the second Visa Bulletin for the new FY2017 fiscal year. The headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the fact that EB-2 India and China advance notably while the forward movement in most of the other categories is fairly minor. Additionally, EB-3 China continues to have a more favorable cutoff date than EB-2 China which creates favorable conditions for EB-2 to EB-3 China downgrades.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) has just announced that for the month of October 2016 they will honor and accept I-485 Adjustment of Status applications based on the Filing Dates (and not only on the Final Action dates) category from the October 2016 Visa Bulletin. See USCIS’s announcement.
What this means is that for I-485 filing purposes, USCIS will accept applications with slightly earlier cutoff date than noted on the Final Action dates. Also, this announcement is important because this is the first time in over twelve Visa Bulletin editions when USCIS has agreed to accept the Filing Dates category for I-485 filing purposes.
October 2016 Visa Bulletin – EB-1 and EB-2 ROW Current Again; EB-2 India and China Advance Significantly; EB-3 China Ahead of EB-2 China
The U.S. State Department has just released the October 2016 Visa Bulletin which is the first Visa Bulletin for the new FY2017 fiscal year. The headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is fact that this is the first bulletin for the new fiscal year. EB-1 and EB-2 ROW are current again and there is notable forward movement in EB-2 India and China. EB-3 China also advanced significantly to have a more favorable cutoff date than EB-2 China which creates favorable conditions for EB-2 to EB-3 China downgrades.
The U.S. State Department has just released the September 2016 Visa Bulletin which is the last Visa Bulletin for the FY2016 fiscal year. The headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is fact that this is the last bulletin for the fiscal year. There is lack of much movement across most employment based categories with the exception of EB-2 and EB-3 India which advance by a few months.
The U.S. State Department has just released the July 2016 Visa Bulletin which is the tenth Visa Bulletin for the FY2016 fiscal year. The headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the lack of much movement across the employment-based categories after the June 2016 major retrogression.
Our office just came back from a discussion session here in Washington, DC with Charles Oppenheim. Mr. Oppenheim is the Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State. For many, he is simply known as the person responsible for the monthly and annual visa number allocations for family- and employment-based green cards. He is also the person who prepares and publishes the monthly visa bulletin which is highly anticipated every month. Our access and proximity to Mr. Oppenheim allows us to provide immediate updates on expected Visa Bulletin movements and we are proud to be among the first to report.
We are asked on a daily basis by our clients to provide visa bulletin predictions and when a particular priority date may become current. As a result, on behalf of our clients, we appreciate the opportunity Mr. Oppenheim has afforded us to get some sense of the movement of the priority dates and also on short- and long-term immigrant visa number trends.
Summary of Mr. Oppenheim’s Key Points
No movement is expected in EB-2 and EB-3 China. EB-2 India may move forward very gradually over the next few months with EB-2 ROW and EB-1 India/China are expected to have a cutoff date within the last two Visa Bulletins for the fiscal year (August or September 2016).
General Visa Number Trends
Mr. Oppenheim spent a few minutes to describe the visa number allocation process and reiterated the fact that in the employment-based context, especially, the demand for visa numbers is greater because of dependents being added — each green card application case is, therefore, “larger” than previously expected and instead of one visa number, if often includes two or three (because many primary beneficiaries have married and have children). For example, Mr. Oppenheim has previously indicated that in the not-so-distant past, each employment-based India case took 1.4 visa numbers on average while right now, each employment-based India case takes on average 2.5 visa numbers.
As a result, and in recognition of the additional fact that many EB-3 India and China candidates are now eligible for porting and are now applying under the EB-2 category, Mr. Oppenheim noted that the EB-3, in addition to EB-2 visa numbers, are expected to remain oversubscribed, particularly for Indian nationals.
He also indicated that there is a significant number of EB-3 to EB-2 India porting cases and the mechanics of the EB-3 to EB-2 porting do not allow advance notification to the Department of State’s Visa Office. This causes a significant number of EB-3 to EB-2 porting cases to “appear” without advance warning to the Visa Office and, as a result, the Visa Office has to hold cutoff dates back (or to retrogress) to accommodate such porting case.
Unfortunately, today’s comments by Mr. Oppenheim do not bring much good news for those hoping for fast cutoff date advancement. Mr. Oppenheim shared that he sees a significantly higher than normal demand in the employment-based categories – often two times the historical and expected amount. This, naturally, causes him to hold back the cutoff dates or, as we say in the June 2016 Visa Bulletin, to retrogress significantly.
Mr. Oppenheim suggested that the EB-1 and EB-5 categories are relatively “popular” this year and expects more numbers to be used in these categories, compared to the past years. This high demand also means that there will be less “leftover” visa numbers available to allocate to other categories, such as EB-2 India and China which would further contribute to the slow EB-2 India forward movement.
On a more general level, Mr. Oppenheim shared that his goal is to advance the cutoff dates more at the beginning of the fiscal year (October, November and December, and January visa bulletins) and then, as he is able to gauge demand for a particular preference category, adjust accordingly by either slowing down or retrogressing (if demand is high) or advancing even more (is demand turns out to be low).
Visa Bulletin Predictions – Employment-Based
Mr. Oppenheim was able to provide some predictions and expectations for movement of visa numbers over the next few months. Please note that these are short-term predictions and depending on the number of applications as a result of the next few months’ visa numbers, the rate of cutoff date movement may change.
EB-1 Rest of World (ROW). This category is expected to remain current throughout the fiscal year.
EB-1 India and China. Due to high demand in this category, there is high likelihood that a cutoff date will be instituted by the September Visa Bulletin.
EB-2 ROW. Due to high demand, it is possible that this category will have a cutoff date by the September Visa Bulletin.
EB-2 China. No movement is expected for the remainder of the fiscal year.
EB-2 India. Likely to stay one week ahead of EB-3 India; possible very gradual forward movement over the next few months.
EB-3 ROW. This category is expected to move forward gradually over the next months to continue to stimulate “demand”.
EB-3 China. No movement is expected for the remainder of the fiscal year.
EB-3 India. Gradual forward movement is expected with a possible cutoff date around early 2005 by September Visa Bulletin.
EB-5. Mr. Oppenheim suggested that the demand for EB-5 is at the highest level ever. For the next fiscal year EB-5 is expected to be current for everyone except EB-5 China (which takes most of the EB-5 immigrant visas).
On Predicting the Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates
Mr. Oppenheim shared his thoughts on the ability of others outside of his office to predict reliably the cutoff date movements. He suggested that while some of the datapoints that go into determining the cutoff dates are available — demand data, number filings — there is so much more (variables and data, some of which is impossible to get) that goes into a cutoff date determination in each visa bulletin that a reliable prediction is impossible for anyone including, sometimes, the Visa Office of Mr. Oppenheim. There are many variables that affect the demand. For example, the recent retrogression of EB-2 India is due to the fact that there are “extraordinary number” of EB-3 to EB-2 India porting cases plus an unexpectedly high demand in EB-2 cases generally. Mr. Oppenheim cannot predict how many of the EB-3 India candidates will end up porting into EB-2 — as a result, by the time he “sees” an EB-2 India case, he has not anticipated for it and has to slow down or retrogress EB-2 India to be able to accommodate EB-2 India applicants with early priority dates.
Mr. Oppenheim’s comments are extremely helpful to get a sense of the visa cutoff dates over the next few months. We urge EB-2 ROW and EB-1 India/China applicants to be aware of the possibility of a cutoff date being introduced for a month or two late in the summer. With respect to EB-2 India and China, the high demand likely means that there may not be much notable movement until the new fiscal year begins on October 1, 2016 and the annual visa number allocations are reset.
Many EB-3 India candidates who now qualify for EB-2 would be able to improve their waiting times dramatically by upgrading to EB-2. We are happy to help analyze and assist in such EB-3 to EB-2 India porting cases.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can review your case, answer any questions or schedule a consultation. We also invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics. 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.
In an order dated May 16, 2016, the U.S District Court for the Western District of Washington has dismissed the lawsuit challenging the October 2015 Visa Bulletin revisions, or the so-called “visagate.” According to the court, the visa bulletin, mainly because it had not become effective at the time of the revision, did not constitute final agency action and, as a result, the court dismissed the case on technical grounds without an opportunity to amend the claims stated. (more…)
The U.S. State Department has just released the June 2016 Visa Bulletin which is the ninth Visa Bulletin for the FY2016 fiscal year. The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the significant retrogression in EB-2 India (4 years), EB-2 China (2¾ years) and EB-3 China (3½ years).