U.S. Department of State

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” (April 13, 2016), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie examines the final action date movements in the May 2016 Visa Bulletin and his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

Family-Based Projections. Because most family-based demand is generated at overseas posts, Charlie has greater visibility into those categories and is able to move the final action dates more consistently than the employment-based categories, which has a high percentage of USCIS-based (adjustment of status) filings. As a result, dramatic fluctuations in the family-based categories tend to be rare and typically occur only when there is a surge in family-based applicants responding to the agent of choice letter and becoming documentarily qualified.

As noted in the May Visa Bulletin, the final action dates for FB-4 China and India will remain at July 22, 2003, consistent with the final action date for FB-4 Worldwide. However, we can expect to see changes soon due to an increase in demand in both of these categories in recent months. The FB-4 India final action date will likely retrogress, possibly as early as June. It may also be necessary to hold or retrogress the FB-4 China final action date in late summer.

New Final Action Date for EB-4 and Certain Religious Workers (SR) Preference Categories. In May, a final action date of January 1, 2010 will be imposed for EB-4 and certain religious workers from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The imposition of a final action date for these countries in these categories is primarily attributable to a spike in demand for adjustment of status over the past two months for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJS) applicants. As noted in the Bulletin, any forward movement in these categories this fiscal year is unlikely.

Charlie advises that the per country limit for this category has already been reached for these countries for this fiscal year. Given EB-4 Worldwide demand, it is unlikely that there will be any additional “otherwise unused numbers” to allocate to these countries. Similarly, it is extremely likely that EB-4 India and Mexico will also become oversubscribed at some point during the summer months.

EB-5 China. Although demand in this category is increasing, I-526 petitions are being acted upon more quickly so the final action date may continue to advance slowly. Charlie has good visibility into demand in this category since most of these cases are at the NVC, although they are becoming documentarily qualified at their own pace.

EB-2 and EB-3 Philippines. EB-2 Philippines remains current and Charlie expects it to remain so for the foreseeable future. With regard to EB-3 Philippines, Charlie expects the final action date to continue to advance a few months at a time, consistent with movement over the past few months. He does not foresee it returning to the Worldwide final action date this fiscal year.

There is significant pent up demand in this category and given the greater level of visibility into it, Charlie is able to more the final action date consistently. Currently, the Texas Service Center has more than 1,600 EB-3 Philippines cases in the pending demand file and the Nebraska Service Center has more than 1,200. Demand at the U.S. Consulate in Manila is about half of that at USCIS. Charlie hopes that the EB-3 Philippines final action date will advance as far as mid-2010 by the end of this fiscal year.

EB-2 and EB-3 China. Recently, number usage for EB-3 China has exploded due to the EB-3 downgrade effect that Charlie has been expecting. Although anticipated, there was no advance warning as to when this demand would materialize, to what extent, or for how long. Demand for EB-3 China numbers exceeded 400 in March alone. EB-2 China spiked to 850 in March. April demand in both categories is expected to be at least on par with March demand, and may possibly exceed it. As a result, it would most likely be necessary to retrogress EB-2 and EB-3 China in June in an effort to hold number use within the annual limit.

EB-1 Demand and Impact to Other Categories. EB-1 demand from USCIS increased almost 100 percent from February (2,500+) to March (5,000+) which reflects more than 95 percent of the EB-1 Worldwide demand. This spike leaves fewer numbers to potentially spill down to other categories, which will impact EB-2 final action dates. Members should expect that the EB categories that typically rely on unused EB-1 numbers, such as EB-2 India, will be impacted. It remains to be seen whether a cut-off date will need to be established for any EB-1 countries this fiscal year.

India Employment-Based Final Action Dates. The final action date for EB-2 India will advance modestly, from November 8, 2008 in April to November 22, 2008 in May. Similarly, EB-3 India will creep forward from August 8, 2004 in April to September 1, 2004 in May. EB-3 demand, after the initial allocation of numbers, has been increasing by 100 month over month from January to February and February to March.

A number of factors make it difficult for Charlie to accurately predict movement in these categories. Increased EB-1 usage negatively impacts the supply of available visas for EB-2 India, and upgrades are currently driving EB-2 India demand. As a result of these two factors, there may be fewer numbers available to EB-2 India than previously expected.

When USCIS requests an EB-2 number in an upgrade case, it also asks that the previously requested EB-3 number be cancelled. Charlie has no visibility into EB-2 upgrade demand until USCIS completes adjudication of the I-485, requests an EB-2 number, and cancels the EB-3 number. This lack of visibility can potentially result in unexpected and dramatic changes in the EB-2 India final action date, as well as other employment-based preference categories.

You may access the May 2016 Visa Bulletin here and the April 2016 Visa Bulletin here.

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

Congress in 2015 tried to tackle new EB-5 reform legislation, but instead chose to extend the program without any changes until September 30, 2016. This was a result of an impasse on issues relating to increase in the capital threshold amount and the change in the metrics used to determine what is a (“TEA”) targeted employment area. The contentious debate on these issues provided both developers and regional centers one more year of status quo in the program.

What will happen this year is anyone’s guess. What we do know is that Congress is holding hearings on EB-5 reform. These hearings provide the opportunity for individuals in the EB-5 industry to voice their opinion as to the future of the program.

On Wednesday April 13th 2016, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its second hearing of 2016 on the EB-5 Program titled, The Distortion of EB-5 Targeted Employment Areas: Time to End the Abuse.  The Senate Judiciary Committee heard from several witnesses including the Executive Director of IIUSA, Peter Joseph.  IIUSA is the national non-profit trade association representing EB-5 developers, regional centers and other professionals that are in the EB-5 space. Peter Joseph in his testimony pointed to several critical issues that the Committee should consider in the long term reauthorization of the EB-5 legislation. Those issues include:

  • Increase visa capacity to enhance economic impact of EB-5 and address the backlog of

investors currently waiting for visas to be available.

  • Staff commercially viable processing system at USCIS that addresses existing backlogs

and prioritizes predictability and length of processing times for EB-5 related petitions and

applications.

  • Avoid retroactive application of new law and reform to protect the existing EB-5

investors and their families and the billions of dollars in financial commitments and

contractual obligations.

  • Ensure all EB-5 investors with petitions currently filed, or at a later stage in the EB-5

process, are guaranteed adjudication (not approval) and eligibility for immigration

benefits throughout the entire EB-5 process (I-526 petition, EB-5 visa issuance, and I-829 petition)

regardless of future reforms, lapses, or expiration of the program.

  • Continue to allow economic impact models including indirect/induced job creation to

count for EB-5 purposes (using the same econometric models that are generally accepted

as economic policymaking tools by government, academia, and business).

  • Improve program integrity, including through enhanced oversight and reporting

requirements of Regional Centers that are not unduly burdensome, such as site visits

funded by user fees.

  • Clarify geographic (including targeted employment areas (TEAs)), structural, and

industry project characteristics that enable consistent adjudication of EB-5 petitions and

applications.

The issues that Peter Joseph mentioned in his testimony on Capitol Hill clearly mirror the position that most in the EB-5 industry have taken on EB-5 reform. The program has been largely a success with a substantial amount of foreign capital being invested in job creating projects in the United States. Everyone in the EB-5 space would like to see an extension of the EB-5 legislation for at least a five (5) year period.

Since 2008, the Program’s annual contribution to foreign direct investment inbound into the U.S. grew over 1,200% to total almost $5 billion in fiscal year 2015 alone. This investment capital is creating tens of thousands of jobs for U.S. workers in diverse communities by funding projects in a wide variety of industry sectors across the country.

Will Congress take any action this year to reform the current EB-5 legislation? I believe not.

This is a Presidential election year. It is very likely that Congress will defer on making any substantive changes to the EB-5 program until 2017. Immigration reform legislation has never passed both houses of Congress in an election year.

The economic benefits of the EB-5 program are not in dispute. The major issue that Congress needs to address is improving the compliance portion of the legislation. This will provide transparency to the program. Something that is much needed.

 

Since September 30, 2015 Congress has considered several immigration bills that would have completely overhauled the EB-5 program. All of us in the space, especially attorneys, had prepared ourselves for the inevitable change of the current EB-5 regulations. We all knew that the minimum capital threshold requirement would increase to $800,000. In addition, the targeted employment area (“TEA”) definition would change, thereby eliminating important metropolitan areas such as New York City from consideration. All of this was occurring against the backdrop of Congress trying to pass the appropriations bill so that our government would not run out of money.

Congress has been wanting to revamp the EB-5 program for a significant period of time. All of the recently introduced EB-5 bills contained measures to increase compliance and make the program safer for foreign investors that were seeking a “Green Card”.  Developers and attorneys lobbied for reform that would not be onerous and would provide a certain amount of compliance. Most of us did not want the new legislation to be the “death knell” of the EB-5 program.

Well, we all got our wish. Congress voted to renew the EB-5 program in its present state until September 30, 2016.  What will happen between now and the expiration of the legislation is anyone’s guess.  But I think the writing is on the wall. Congress seeks to reform the EB-5 program on two fronts. The first is the minimum investment capital threshold requirement. It is a foregone conclusion that prior to September 30, 2016 Congress will pass EB-5 legislation that increases the minimum investment in a targeted employment area (“TEA”) to $800,000. The second is on the compliance front. Congress will include provisions in the new bill that require “on-site audits” of projects and regional centers.  In addition, Congress will require all principals that have equity in a regional center to submit to a Federal background check. This will ensure that the players in the EB-5 space are not unscrupulous characters.

All in all, the changes would be welcome by most in the industry. The impact that the higher investment amount would have in China and other markets is something that is yet to be seen. All of us though are breathing a sigh of relief for the EB-5 extension.

 

Confused as to when you may file an I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status?

Beginning with the October 2015 State Department Visa Bulletin additional information appears pertaining to when an intending immigrant may file an application for adjustment of status.  This is specifically relevant to those for whom a visa number is not immediately available, such as those in the EB-2 Category from China or India, or those in the EB-3 Category from China, India, Mexico or the Philippines, among others.

In particular, the Visa Bulletin now includes “Dates for Filing” along with “Application Final Action Dates”.  (Please see my blog post, “October 2015 Visa Bulletin Includes New “Dates for Filing of Visa Applications”; Immigrant Visa Availability Procedures Revised to Permit Possible Earlier Filings” for details.)

The Immigration Service (USCIS) stated from the outset that it “may” (not “will”) use the Dates for Filing Applications to determine when an application for adjustment of status may be filed.  But, what does this mean?  How can one tell when the Immigration Service will permit an I-485 filing based on the Dates for Filing of Applications?  The answer can be found on the Immigration Service’s website at http://www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo.

Here is a summary of the information:

  • Unless “otherwise stated” on the USCIS website, plan to use the Application Final Action Date.
  • The “otherwise stated” information will appear on the USCIS website in the following charts, which USCIS anticipates updating within a week of the State Department’s release of each months’ Visa Bulletin):
    • Current Month Adjustment of Status Filing Chart, and
    • Next Month Adjustment of Status Filing Chart.

Currently, both of these charts contains a statement noting that USCIS has determined that one may use the Dates for Filing Visa Applications chart.  So, for October 2015 and November 2015, the Dates for Filing Applications may be used.

Of course, these dates were significantly rolled back from the originally announced October 2015 dates. (See my blog post, “October 2015 Visa Bulletin:  Dates for Filing Revised, Rolled Back,” for details.)

Perhaps December’s Dates for Filing Visa Applications will be favorable.

______________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

43580386_s (1)

What will Congress do with the soon to expire EB-5 regional center program?

That is the question that most everyone in the EB-5 world is asking each other. Congress chose on September 30th of this year to “kick the proverbial can down the road” until December 11, 2015 with an interim extension of the current legislation. As of the date of the writing of this blog Congress has before it several bills that seek to extend the EB-5 Pilot Program.

The possible changes on the horizon include increasing the minimum investment amount to $800,000.00 for TEA’s and $1,200,000.00 for other areas. Since there has been no change in the capital contribution amount since the creation of the program, most think this amendment will proceed.

The other change that would be controversial would modify the definition of a targeted employment area. The TEA’s would be limited and potentially not include state designations based on aggregated census tracts. This could eliminate many TEA’s.

In addition, it is anticipated that the regional centers will come under greater scrutiny by USCIS. This could include more comprehensive and frequent reporting requirements, as well as the ability of the agency to suspend regional center designation for those centers that do not fulfill reporting requirements or have little or no business activity.

Congress will also examine whether regional center principals can be non-resident aliens. Most regional centers currently are owned by U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents.  There are many non-resident aliens that are interested in creating regional centers and developing projects, especially in South Florida.

Developers, as well as investors are rushing to complete exemplars for projects and file individual I-526 immigrant visa petitions in order to “grandfather” their projects and/or investor applications under the present statutory requirements. It is noteworthy however, that no one is certain that “grandfathering” will be part of the final legislation. Will this all be for naught?

What we can be sure of are that changes to the EB-5 regional center program will occur before the end of the year. The changes to the program will hopefully make it better. The program will survive.

 

CNN Money reports that DHS is being showered with flower deliveries in nonviolent protest against the government’s issuance of a revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin (http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin/2016/visa-bulletin-for-october-2015.html).  According to the article, a card on one of the flower deliveries read: “[The] Visa Bulletin reversal has caused irreparable harm to our families. We ask you to not inflict injustice on us for no fault of ours.”

You can find more information about the Oct. 2015 Visa Bulletin “Rollback” in my blog post of Sept. 28, 2015.

CNN’s Article is reprinted below:

The Department of Homeland Security is being showered with flower deliveries, a very peaceful protest over a major snafu that has left thousands of immigrants in limbo. The problem began on September 9 when many immigrants checked the State Department’s website for its “Visa Bulletin,” which is updated monthly and which immigrants monitor closely.  That day they got an amazing surprise: Far more people discovered they were eligible to file for the last step of the green card process.  This step in the green card process grants flexibility to change jobs or travel outside the country.  The change impacted thousands of immigrants in the U.S., most of whom are on H-1B visas — the most common visa for high-skilled foreign workers.

On September 25, the State Department issued a revised bulletin: It flubbed and thousands of immigrants would no longer qualify. Immigration lawyers say as many as 50,000 applications were no longer eligible with the change.  Nearly two weeks later, the State Department has given little explanation other than to say the change came after consultation with the Department of Homeland Security. According to a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, “Further analysis of a recently published Visa Bulletin, intended to improve the issuance of green cards, showed that some of the new filing dates in that bulletin did not accurately reflect visa availability.”  Unsatisfied, the affected immigrants are protesting.  The flowers are just one form, with a card to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, that read: “Dear Honorable Jeh Johnson, DHS Visa Bulletin reversal has caused irreparable harm to our families. We ask you to not inflict injustice on us (legal immigrants) for no fault of ours. Please fix October Visa Bulletin. We wish you the very best.” The effort is meant to channel the nonviolent protest methods of Mahatma Gandhi.

Flower Protest

Thousands of flowers have been delivered to the Department of Homeland Security, according to Immigration Voice. There is also a lawsuit. Three lawyers filed a class action complaint last week against the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and Secretary of State John Kerry.

The cost for affected immigrants is real. Families spent anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 each preparing applications, which would have been due last week.  “We started making plans,” said 45-year-old Sridhar Katta, a mechanical engineer and M.B.A. who lives in Seattle with his wife and 16-year-old twin boys. “All our hopes were dashed within a matter of days.”  According to Vikram Desai, co-founder of a nonprofit group called Immigration Voice, over 150,000 people — including himself — were impacted by the revised bulletin because family members should be counted too.  Desai said the impact is even greater: “The total number of people stuck in green card backlog is over 1 million … there’s something fundamentally broken.”  The green card backlog can mean that it takes some immigrants anywhere from 10 to 70 years before obtaining citizenship. Each year, there are just 140,000 green cards available for foreign workers in the U.S. There are quotas for certain countries and skill levels. The backlog is particularly high for Chinese and Indian citizens.

“The lack of transparency in how [the government] is reaching a decision and managing this process is a significant frustration for the immigrants,” said Lyden Melmed, a partner at Berry, Appelman & Leiden in Washington who previously was Chief Counsel of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “They absolutely could and should release all of their calculations.”

Desai said they are hoping for a statement from the Department of Homeland Security as soon as this week. “I don’t know what the consequences were that they have to backtrack,” said Tahmina Watson, an immigration attorney in Seattle. “This is the worst miscalculation they could do … Don’t say anything if you’re going to change it.”

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

As major League baseball begins its post season and millions of fans are rooting for their home team to play in and win the World Series, many more people are entering the Diversity Lottery (DV) 2017 in hopes of winning a “green card”. 

This year’s Lottery season began at noon EDT October 1, 2015 and will end November 3, noon EDT.  During the season, applicants from low admission countries may file online, and online only, to secure a DV 2017 immigrant visa.  Qualified individuals may submit one, and only one, application before the end of the season by going to the Department of State website, www.dvlottery.state.gov , to review the rules and to file electronically. Starting in May 2016 entrants may begin to check to see if they were chosen. 

The process is entirely electronic and the lottery is by the luck of the draw.  It costs nothing to apply.  Although the percentage of winners is small, 50,000 people a year do win and most of them convert their DV lottery winnings into green cards.

 

 

In a move that has crushed the hopes of untold numbers of would-be applicants for US permanent residence, the US Department of State (USDOS) issued a revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin which dramatically set back the new “Dates for Filing Applications”.  See http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html.

The revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin was issued last Friday, September 25, 2015, and supersedes the October 2015 Visa Bulletin that was issued on September 9, 2015.

As a result, the following categories now have later filing dates as indicated:

Category                  NEW Filing Date

EB-2 China…………..1/1/2013 (back 1 year and 5 months from the original October 2015 Visa Bulletin)

EB-2 India……………..7/1/2009 (back 2 years from the original October 2015 Visa Bulletin)

EB-3 Philippines…..1/1/2010 (back 5 years from the original October 2015 Visa Bulletin)

FB-1 Mexico…………..4/1/1995 (back 3 months from the original October 2015 Visa Bulletin )

FB-3 Mexico…………..5/1/1995 (back 1 year and 5 months from the original October 2015 Visa Bulletin ).

This means that an intending greencard applicant may only file an adjustment application in October 2015 if his or her priority date is earlier than the Date for Filing as listed in the revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin (the one that was released on September 25, 2015).

It’s impossible to tell how many people were fervently working toward preparing adjustment applications AND making life decisions based on the previously issued Dates for Filing.

As they say, “easy come, easy go”, but this just doesn’t seem fair.  Questions are also being raised regarding the legality of this unexpected move.

_________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice group of Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

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).

This month, before we move into Charlie’s comments and analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories, we’d like to provide you with an overview of the changes introduced with the October 2015 Visa Bulletin.

The release of the October 2015 Visa Bulletin represents an historical shift in how the State Department presents data regarding the availability of immigrant visa numbers. The October Bulletin, and all Bulletins going forward, now lists important dates for both the family and employment based immigrant visa applicants:

(1) the “Final Action Dateschart, which is the date when DOS or USCIS may render a final decision on the applications (i.e. approve the grant of permanent residency because an immigrant visa number is available).  This chart contains the same “cut-off” data that has historically been published in the Visa Bulletin.

(2) the “Dates for Filing” chart, which is the date upon which individuals may file their permanent residence applications (Adjustment of Status).

As part of the Obama Administration’s Visa Modernization Proposal, the State Department is now publishing the “qualifying dates” within the newly named “Dates for Filing” chart. Other than the publication of these dates in the Visa Bulletin, the Department of State/NVC process for issuing “agent of choice” letters has not changed.

The “qualifying dates” or “dates of filing” is representative of the demand, based on the information available at the time of the determination, that the State Department anticipates will be available for that particular preference category and country of chargeability at some point in the upcoming 8 to 12 months. The purpose of setting “qualifying dates” has been to elicit from applicants the necessary information and documents for their immigrant visa applications to be considered “documentarily qualified” or ready to adjudicate once their priority date is reached. Once the priority date for a documentarily qualified case becomes current (i.e., is earlier than the “final action date”), the immigrant visa interview can be scheduled (or the application may be approved, if no interview is required). In general, USCIS will continue to follow the “Final Action Date” chart for the acceptance of adjustment of status applications. However, if USCIS determines that there are additional visas available it may exercise its discretion to accept adjustment of status applications in accordance with the “Dates for Filing” chart. Each month, the Visa Bulletin will indicate whether USCIS will accept adjustment applications during the upcoming month in accordance with the “Dates for Filing” chart. For the month of October, USCIS has agreed to permit both family- and employment-based immigrants to use the “Dates for Filing” chart to file adjustment of status applications. Thus, individuals who have a priority date earlier than the “Filing Date” cut-off for the month of October may submit an adjustment of status application in October.  In the future, applicants should refer to USCIS’ site to determine when to file for adjustment of status.

Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (September 14, 2015), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories as well as his insights on the new “dates for filing” chart.

QUESTION 1: What Is the Anticipated Impact of the Addition of “Dates for Filing” to the Visa Bulletin?

Until now, the Visa Office had limited visibility into the employment-based demand for immigrant visas primarily being processed by USCIS. Though the Visa Office made educated estimates as to future demand, since these predictions were based on limited information (e.g., historical patterns, demand filed prior to subsequent retrogression of dates), unanticipated surges in demand would sometimes arise. As a result, cut-off dates in the employment-based categories have been vulnerable to fluctuation, often advancing significantly, then suddenly stopping, retrogressing, or becoming unavailable with little to no warning.

The State Department anticipates that as USCIS begins to accept adjustment applications based on the “Dates for Filing,” it will eventually have better information regarding overall immigrant visa demand. When USCIS receives an I-485 case, it pre-adjudicates the case and requests a visa number from the State Department. If the “Final Action Date” is current, the State Department will authorize an immigrant visa number and USCIS will approve the case and proceed with production of the permanent resident card. If the “Final Action Date” is not current, the State Department will be unable to authorize a visa number and the case is placed in the Visa Office’s “pending demand file.” The data maintained in the pending demand file data enables Charlie to better assess demand and move the “Final Action Dates” at a more reasonable and predictable pace over time. Based on published USCIS processing times it takes approximately six months for these cases to be received and pre-adjudicated by USCIS, so Charlie expects that he will have a better sense of overall employment-based immigrant visa demand at USCIS starting in the spring of 2016.

QUESTION 2: How will the “Dates for Filing” Change?

Charlie will determine the need for changes to the various “Dates for Filing” at the same time he is making the determination of the upcoming month’s cut-off dates. They will generally remain the same or may move forward slightly throughout the fiscal year.

QUESTION 3: Will Adding “Dates for Filing” to the Visa Bulletin Negatively Impact the “Final Action Dates”?

Although some members have expressed concerns that the addition of the “Dates for Filing” might negatively impact “Final Action Dates,” Charlie assures us that is not the case. The “Final Action Dates” listed in the October Visa Bulletin are conservative while he sees the time impact of recent changes in the dates, and they are not expected to retrogress in the foreseeable future, or without prior warning. Instead, USCIS allowing I-485 submission based upon the “Dates for Filing” will provide much needed visibility into USCIS demand which will ultimately result in more predictable and steady movement of the “Final Action Dates.” For example, earlier this year, the lack of visibility into demand initially resulted in the rapid forward movement of the cut-off date for EB-2 China in an effort to generated number use within the annual limit, which then abruptly rolled-back when demand materialized at a much higher rate than could have been anticipated. This “whiplash” phenomenon is likely to cease to occur once the new system is implemented and more reliable employment-based visa demand data is available to the State Department when determining Final Action dates.

You may access the September 2015 Visa Bulletin here and the October 2015 Visa Bulletin here.

http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-september-2015.html

http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2016/visa-bulletin-for-october-2015.html

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

The procedures regarding immigrant visa availability have changed for the benefit of intending US permanent resident (i.e., greencard) applicants. These changes are reflected in the October 2015 Visa Bulletin which may be viewed at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2016/visa-bulletin-for-october-2015.html.

The US Department of State’s (DOS’s) monthly Visa Bulletin will now include two charts per visa preference category for Family-based and Employment-based applicants as follows:

Dates for Filing Applications (Sections 4.B. and 5.B of Visa Bulletin)

In Sections 4.B. (Family-Sponsored Preference Cases) and 5.B. (Employment-Based Preference Cases), “Application Final Action Dates” are listed.  The information in this part of the Visa Bulletin “reflects dates for filing visa applications within a timeframe justifying immediate action in the application process”.

Consular Processing/National Visa Center

If an immigrant visa applicant has a priority date that is earlier than the cut-off date listed in Section 4.B. or 5.B., the Visa Bulletin indicates that the US Department of State National Visa Center (NVC) will notify the applicant with detailed instructions to assemble and submit documents to the NVC.  The NVC accepts documents needed to process a greencard application abroad at a consular post of the US Department of State.

Adjustment of Status

The October 2015 Visa Bulletin also states that USCIS may use the “Dates for Filing Applications” chart (in lieu of the “Application Final Action Dates” chart in paragraphs 4.A. and 5.A.) to determine when an application for adjustment of status may be filed.  Adjustment applicants are directed to visit www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo for more information.  This statement in the October 2015 Visa Bulletin is consistent with USCIS’s announcement today that each month it will “monitor the visa numbers and post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart” on its website under “When to File”.  An intending greencard applicant can then use this information to determine when to file an adjustment application (Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status).  The “Dates for Filing Applications” chart may be used only when USCIS determines that additional immigrant visa numbers are available.  Otherwise, per USCIS guidance, the “Application Final Action Dates” chart must be used by intending Adjustment of Status applicants.  www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo.

Implications

The dates in the “Dates for Filing Applications” sections of the Visa Bulletin are significantly further ahead of those listed in the September 2015 Visa Bulletin.  For example, in September 2015, the EB-2 India cut-off date was January 1, 2006.  http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-september-2015.html  In the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, “Dates for Filing Applications” chart, the cut-off date for EB-2 India is July 1, 2011.  The implications are clear.  Under the revised process, considerably more people should be eligible to file their visa applications at earlier dates than under the prior system.

As an aside, a “C” in the Dates for Filing Applications chart indicates that the category is “current”, i.e., that applications may be filed “regardless of the applicant’s priority date”.

Application Final Action Dates (Sections 4.A. and 5.A of Visa Bulletin)

In Sections 4.A. (Family-Sponsored Preference Cases) and 5.A. (Employment-Based Preference Cases), “Application Final Action Dates” are listed when the class is oversubscribed.  This may be specific to preference categories for a particular country or could affect all countries.

If a category is oversubscribed it means that “not all demand” for visas could be satisfied for that country/category.  These dates are now noted as the “dates when visas may finally be issued” as determined based on available data.

A “C” in the Application Final Action Dates chart indicates that the category is “current”, i.e., that visa numbers are authorized to be issued to all qualified applicants for that country/category.  In other words, there enough visas available to meet the overall demand.

A “U” in the Application Final Action Dates chart means that visa numbers are not authorized to be issued during that month for that country/category.

Keep in mind that visa numbers are only authorized for issuance to applicants whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed in the Visa Bulletin.

* * * * *

The new processes, implemented as a result of President Obama’s November 2014 immigration executive action and the subsequent July 2015 report captioned “Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century”, are expected to enable the Department of State to more accurately predict the visa demand and cut-off date information which it publishes in its monthly Visa Bulletin.  It is anticipated that these revisions will facilitate use of all available visa numbers per fiscal year and reduce monthly fluctuations in the “final action dates”.

_____________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.