The Department of State (“DOS”) recently released the January 2014 Visa Bulletin, which contains some very interesting developments that affect foreign workers in the Employment-Based 2nd and 3rd categories, particularly those who are citizens of China. The Visa Bulletin is issued by the DOS on a monthly basis and informs applicants when they are eligible to apply for U.S. Permanent Residence (commonly referred to as “Green Card”). Each fiscal year, each country is issued an equal number of immigrant visa numbers. However, as there are more applicants seeking green cards from certain countries (i.e. India, China, Mexico and Philippines) than there are numbers available, the citizens of affected countries experience significant delays in getting their green cards. This is known as visa retrogression. Affected applicants cannot adjust their statuses to green card holders until the priority dates on their respective cases become current. Each month the DOS publishes the Visa Bulletin, which indicates what priority dates are current and who is eligible to apply for the final stage of the green card process. Wait times published in the Visa Bulletin range from a few months to 10 or more years.

The January 2014 Visa Bulletin is unusual because the EB-3 category is moving faster than the EB-2 category for Chinese citizens. (To qualify for the EB-2 category, the offered position must require a Master’s degree or Bachelor’s degree and five years of experience; EB-3 requires a Bachelor’s degree.) For example, a Chinese national whose EB-3 PERM application was filed on or before March 31, 2012 is now eligible to adjust status, whereas a Chinese national whose EB-2 PERM application was filed on the same date is not. Historically, China EB-2 has moved faster than China EB-3, which is why this month’s visa bulletin is unique. As a result, many employers may see an increase in requests from employees for an EB-3 green card process. If the employee already has an approved EB-2 I-140 (second phase of the employment based green card process), the company can consider filing an amended I-140 and request EB-3 classification while retaining the priority date. If the amended I-140 will make the applicant’s priority date current, the applicant is eligible to concurrently file an Adjustment of Status application (the final phase of the green card process). We’ll continue to monitor Chinese EB-3 movement on this blog. Unfortunately, for Indian nationals we saw no change from the December 2013 to January 2014 Visa Bulletin. The February Visa Bulletin is expected to be released in the next 12 -14 days, and we will report on any pertinent developments.

Employment-Based Visa Bulletin Predictions

The Department of State also issued predictions in Visa Bulletin movement for the next few months. For the EB-2 category, the Department of State predicted no forward movement for India EB-2, slight movement of 3-5 weeks for EB-2 China, and Worldwide will remain current.

For the EB-3 category, the Worldwide category has experienced rapid movement forward, which is expected to end in February 2014. China and Mexico will likely continue to match the Worldwide dates. No forward movement is estimated for India, and the Philippines is projected to have slight movement forward of 3-6 weeks.

EB-1 is expected to remain current.

EB-3 Worldwide, China, and Mexico applicants with a current priority date should consider filing their Adjustment of Status applicants now as EB-3 priority dates may retrogress in the next few months.

December Visa Bulletin (includes DOS projections for upcoming months):

January Visa Bulletin: