In our continuing series of reports, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, shares his most recent analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association).
Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (December 17, 2018), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.
This month, Charlie’s comments on the first quarter of this fiscal year are limited due to insufficient data, but we look forward to more specific predictions on demand trends and date movement in the coming months.
Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: December 17, 2018
Final Action Date Movements Largely Track Those of Q1 FY2019
With only modest movement in the employment-based preference categories for the first quarter of the fiscal year, we were hoping to see more dramatic forward movement in some of these categories starting with the January 2019 Visa Bulletin. However, movement tracks similarly to what we experienced during the first quarter.
As of now, Charlie does not have sufficient data to know whether the current demand trend will continue into January so he is unable to comfortably predict final action date movements in the near term. While Charlie initially hoped to publish specific projections in the January Bulletin, he now expects to publish projections in the February Visa Bulletin.
Since final action dates in several employment-based categories retrogressed during the final months of FY2018, demand in the first quarter was generally high across these categories, and applications which were unable to be processed for a few months are now coming through the pipeline. Charlie is concerned that demand data may be artificially high and not reflect the true level of future demand. He will continue to cautiously monitor demand levels over the next few weeks to assess whether this is a true trend and will make predictions accordingly.
Strike While the Iron is Hot!
It has been fortunate that USCIS has decided to accept adjustment of status applications based on the “Dates for Filing” through the first quarter of FY2019. It is Charlie’s understanding that USCIS will announce as early as Monday, December 17, that it will continue to follow the Dates for Filing for applications in January, but that the Final Action Dates may apply as early as February after that. (Editor’s note: USCIS’ site on dates of filing appears to continue to track the dates for filing in the January 2019 DATES FOR FILING OF EMPLOYMENT-BASED VISA APPLICATIONS. Therefore, applicants wishing to take advantage of the more liberal “Dates of Filing” should do so while that window of opportunity is open. Interestingly, for both EB-3 China and India, the Dates for Filing for surpass those for EB-2. This creates the potential for downgrade filings which may not be available after January.
Note: As always, as final action date movements can be unpredictable, it is critical for clients to file their applications to adjust status or to respond to the NVC Agent of Choice letter as soon as they are eligible to do so.
Programs that Will Sunset if Not Reauthorized
The EB-4 Religious Workers (SR) and EB-5 categories (I5 and R5) will sunset on December 21, 2018 unless reauthorized by Congress. They are therefore listed as unavailable for January 2019. The Visa Bulletin lists the final action dates that will apply to these categories, should they be reauthorized.
National Visa Center Filing Statistics Released
The January Visa Bulletin cites to an NVC report of immigrant visa applicants for both family-based and employment-based preference categories that were registered at the NVC as of November 1, 2018.
You may access the December 2018 Visa Bulletin here and the January 2019 Visa Bulletin here.
Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, specializing in corporate immigration law and compliance. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or firstname.lastname@example.org.