Below is a summary of the U.S. State Department June 2014 Visa Bulletin:
- EB-1 remains current across all filing categories;
- EB-2 for Worldwide, Mexico and Philippines all remain current. The EB-2 India cut-off remains at November 15, 2004 (this has remained stagnant since the December 2013 Visa Bulletin). EB-2 China moves forward to May 22, 2009; and
- EB-3 Worldwide, China and Mexico retrogress significantly (see below). EB-3 Worldwide and EB-3 Mexico move back to April 1, 2011 and EB-3 China moves back by 6 years to October 1, 2006. EB-3 Philippines moves forward by 2 months to January 1, 2008, while EB-3 India moves forward by only 2 weeks to October 15, 2003.
Dramatic Retrogression for EB-3 China
The Department of State stated in the Visa Bulletin that the “unexpected and dramatic increase in demand being received from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Offices during the past several months has resulted in number use approaching the annual limit for this category. As a result, it has been necessary to retrogress the Worldwide, China and Mexico cut-off dates for the month of June.”
Beginning with the June 2013 Visa Bulletin, the third preference employment-based immigrant visa category (EB-3) for individuals born in the People’s Republic of China (China) had a more recent cut-off date than the second preference employment-based category (EB-2). Accordingly, many foreign nationals chose to “downgrade” their case from EB-2 to EB-3 to shorten their wait time. However, this has had a negative impact on the EB-3 category and has resulted in the severe retrogression (six years) as reported above. Applicants who are still preparing their I-485 Adjustment Applications for this filing category should file before the end of the month, before the retrogression occurs on June 1, 2014.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) reported that on Monday April 21, 2014, Mr. Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State’s Visa Office (VO) spoke to AILA regarding what his office is currently seeing with regard to visa demand and what might be expected in terms of Visa Bulletin movement at this time. While these “projections” can (and often do) change based on usage and/or new developments, below is a summary of the outlook based on AILA’s conversation with Mr. Oppenheim (note: Mr. Oppenheimer discussed both Family-Based and Employment-Based projections; however, we only report the employment-based projections here):
Employment Based 5th Preference China (EB-5)
- China EB-5 could retrogress later this year, possibly August or September.
- Retrogression for China EB-5 in the 2015 fiscal year seems almost inevitable, as there are more than 7,000 I-526 applications pending and 80% are from China.
Employment Based 1st Preference (EB-1)
- It is still a little early in the fiscal year to know how many unused cases will drop down into EB-2. EB-1 usage is heavier this year than last year.
Employment Based 2nd Preference India (EB-2)
- It is possible in August, but more likely in September, that India EB-2 will open at 1/1/2008 or perhaps later in 2008, in order to utilize the rest of the EB-2 visa numbers that were unused by the Worldwide categories.
- How many numbers will be utilized depends on EB-1 and EB-2 usage in the Worldwide categories for the rest of the fiscal year (it could be 5,000 or more). This would be less than what was available in fiscal year 2013.
- No expected changes for Worldwide EB-2.
Employment Based 3rd Preference Worldwide (EB-3)
- The VO has limited knowledge as to the number of eligible applicants, and USCIS has encouraged DOS to “move the category forward” over the last five months. Demand appears to be increasing, thus, it is unlikely in the short run that the category will move forward. In fact, if current demand continues, something may have to be done as early as May 2014 to slow the demand in this category.
- The last quarter of the fiscal year for 2014 does not look good, and no movement, or retrogression, is possible.
Employment Based 3rd Preference China (EB-3)
- Many Chinese nationals who were waiting in the EB-2 category have been filing to “downgrade” from EB-2 to EB-3, and the result of these requests will be reflected in the coming months.
- High demand is expected to continue in this category and a correction may be reflected as early as the May or June Visa Bulletin, depending on demand.
Why Are Priority Dates Important Anyway?
The issue of a visa number’s “availability” is tied to the U.S. preference system for permanent residence. The U.S. maintains limits on those who can apply to enter as permanent residents; these limits apply by type of immigrant visa sought for permanent resident as well as country of origin. From time to time, backlogs occur in certain categories of employment-based visas, for all persons or for persons from certain countries (backlogs are almost always present for family-based visas) as there are more people applying in those categories from those countries than there are visa numbers available. The setting of the preference is based upon the position’s minimum requirements, not the qualifications of the employee. The net result is that persons who have applications from those countries in the third preference are not able to move on to the final step of the permanent residence process until their “priority date” (or “place in line”) moves to the front of the line for immigrant visas. The line is set by the Department of State and is reviewed monthly. In many cases, this step can take eight years or more depending on the filing category.
The VO’s projections can give hope to some applicants, who in the coming months, may be eligible to move to the final step of the permanent residence process, after waiting for years on hold. But for others, the outlook is not very promising. While the future movement of the immigrant visa availability remains hazy, one thing is clear. Immigration Reform is needed to help eradicate these extreme and unnecessary delays for individuals who continue to contribute to the U.S. economy; and for employers, who are forced to continue filing multiple temporary work extensions in order to retain valuable employees. We will continue to watch the movement in the Visa Bulletin and provide updates.
*Not admitted to the practice of law.