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” (September 12, 2016), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie offers his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories for the beginning of the next fiscal year (October 2016) and beyond.

Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: September 12, 2016

EB-4 and Certain Religious Worker (SR) Preference Categories. As predicted last month, the final action dates for EB-4 India and EB-4 Mexico will be current again in October and the priority dates for EB-4 El Salvador/Guatemala/Honduras will advance to June 15, 2015. While Charlie considered establishing a separate final action date for Guatemala and Honduras due to the higher demand for numbers from El Salvador, all three countries are expected to exceed the per country limitation and rely on the availability of “otherwise unused” EB-4 numbers. Thus, Charlie confirmed that the three countries will continue to be reported together throughout FY 2017.

It is expected that EB-4 India and EB-4 Mexico will remain current for the foreseeable future, until at least late spring, early summer 2017. EB-4 El Salvador/Guatemala/Honduras is expected to advance modestly, by no more than two months at a time in a best case scenario. Charlie notes that there is likely more demand in this category at USCIS to which he does not yet have visibility, so his predictions may change depending on the rate at which such demand begins to materialize.

EB-4 religious workers will be unavailable in October, pending congressional action to reauthorize the program beyond September 30, 2016. Should that occur, El Salvador/Guatemala/Honduras would be subject to a June 15, 2015 final action date, and all other countries would be current.

EB-1 China and India. In October, the EB-1 final action date for all countries will return to current. Due to the brief imposition of a final action date in India and China at the end of FY 2016, there will be high usage in these categories in October. EB-1 India and China can be expected to remain current for the foreseeable future. Charlie will continue monitor this category closely during the second half of the fiscal year if demand remains high.

EB-2 and EB-3. As predicted, EB-2 Worldwide will again be current in October and ahead of EB-3 Worldwide which will have a final action date of June 1, 2016. As there is pent up demand in EB-2 Worldwide due to the retrogression, visa usage in this category will be high in October. Charlie will monitor this category closely during the final quarter of the fiscal year.

Consistent with Charlie’s predictions, in October, EB-2 China will have a final action date of February 15, 2012, almost one year behind EB-3 China’s final action date of January 23, 2013. Thus, the EB-3 downgrade phenomenon should once again be expected for FY2017. Charlie did not advance either of these final action date to the full number use target given the likelihood of demand at USCIS that is not yet visible and to minimize the need for corrective action later in the fiscal year. Charlie hopes to keep the final action dates for EB-2 and EB-3 China as close to one another as possible.

Also consistent with Charlie’s predictions, the final action date for EB-2 India will advance to January 15, 2007 in October. Charlie expects this category will advance at a pace of up to four months at a time. Slower movements of up to a week at a time are anticipated for EB-3 India, which will advance to a March 1, 2005 final action date in October. Number usage for EB-3 India is expected to be high in October, which will decrease the amount of numbers Charlie can allocate in November and December and slow the advancement of this category.

The EB-3 Philippines final action date will be December 1, 2010 in October. Charlie expects this category to initially move up to three weeks per month. He hopes that the final action date will move through 2011 as soon as possible and that it will be well into 2013 by the end of the fiscal year.

EB-5 China. EB-5 China non-regional centers will have a final action date of February 22, 2015 in October. EB-5 China regional centers will be “unavailable” in October pending Congressional reauthorization of the program beyond September 30, 2016. Should this category be reauthorized, the final action date will be set at February 22, 2014. So as not to completely halt visa processing in October, DOS has set tentative Immigrant Visa appointments for the second half of October, which will be remain scheduled in the event that Congress reauthorizes the program.

Family-Based Projections. In October, the final action date for F-2A will be December 22, 2014 for all countries except F-2A Mexico, which will be December 1, 2014. As has been the case during FY 2016, F-2A Mexico is expected to lag behind the rest of the world by about 3 weeks for the rest of the fiscal year. China and India’s final action dates track those for the rest of world in all family-based categories with the exception of F-4. Charlie expects F-4 China to catch up to the final action date for F-4 Worldwide within three to four months. The F-4 India final action date will advance into 2013 for November, but unlike F-4 China, will remain behind F-4 Worldwide for the foreseeable future.

Application Filing Dates. Given higher levels of demand in relation to the expected availability of numbers during FY 2017, the Application Filing Dates in several categories, such as EB-5 China and EB-2 India, have retrogressed. Applicants are reminded to refer to USCIS’s website as to whether it will honor the Application Filing Dates for I-485 applications.

You may access the October 2016 Visa Bulletin here and the September 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.

 

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” (July 20, 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 August 2016 Visa Bulletin and his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

Check-in with DOS’ Charlie Oppenheim: July 20, 2016

Reflections as We Approach the End of the Fiscal Year. The unveiling of the August Visa Bulletin leads us to contemplate possible Final Action Date movement for September, the final month of the fiscal year. In this month’s column we will review the August Bulletin, and consider predictions for September and prospects for recovery in key retrogressed preference categories in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. Next month, we will cover predictions for Filing Date movement as we enter FY 2017.

EB-4 and Certain Religious Worker (SR) Preference Categories. The January 1, 2010 cut-off date which was imposed earlier this year for EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico will remain through September, the end of the fiscal year. The imposition of a cut-off date for these countries is largely due to high demand for Special Immigrant Juvenile visas. A January 1, 2010 cut-off date will also be imposed on EB-4 India starting in August, consistent with Charlie’s predictions.

Though EB-4 Mexico and EB-4 India will become current again in October, the prospects for a full recovery for EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are much less likely. A 2015 cut-off date will likely be established in these categories for October, with date(s) moving forward slowly through the next fiscal year. However, uncertainty surrounding the movement of the EB-4 Final Action dates for these Central American countries remains, given the lack of visibility into the number of adjustment of status filings that were received in April 2015, prior to the establishment of the cut-off date in May.

Family-Based Projections. In September, most of the family-based categories will likely hold or retrogress from where they are in August. Only F-4 Worldwide has the potential to advance in September. Charlie expects a full recovery from retrogressions in all of the family-based categories in October, with the exception of F-4 China and F-4 India which will take some time. Beginning in November 2015, beneficiaries of F-4 China and F-4 India started responding to NVC Agent of Choice letters in larger numbers, which has given Charlie better visibility into the demand in these categories, but ultimately resulted in the retrogression of these cut-off dates.

F-4 China, which previously shared the F-4 Worldwide Final Action date until retrogressing in June to January 1, 2003, will remain at that cut-off date through August. While this category will not advance in September, there should be a full recovery to the prior Final Action date of July 22, 2003 by November.

Similarly, F-4 India also shared the F-4 Worldwide Final Action date until it retrogressed in June. Charlie continues to predict that the Final Action date for F-4 India will remain at January 1, 2001 through September. A full recovery of this category to the Worldwide level will not happen in October. Given the high level of demand, the Final Action date should advance to around November 2002 in October, with a full recovery unlikely to happen prior to June 2017.

Charlie will be watching the F-2A and F-3 preference categories very carefully. Both categories are likely to retrogress temporarily in September, and then return to their respective August 2015 Final Action dates in October.

EB Preference Categories. The Final Action date of January 1, 2010 that was imposed in June for both EB-2 and EB-3 China remains the same in August with no forward movement in either of these categories expected this fiscal year. Although Charlie had hoped for more dramatic forward movement, EB-3 India should advance modestly into a 2005 Final Action date in September. EB-2 India will continue to track one week ahead of the EB-3 India Final Action date in September.

EB-3 Worldwide has been hovering close to “current” for some time, and is expected to do so through at least October.

A February 1, 2014 Final Action date for EB-2 Worldwide was imposed in the August Visa Bulletin, with the hope of holding number use to within the EB-2 annual limit. That date should hold at February 1, 2014 in September and is expected to fully recover to “current” in October. Although Charlie predicts the EB-2 India and EB-2 China cut-off dates will advance in October, they will not fully recover at that time. It is hoped that they will recover fully as soon as possible, with EB-2 China possibly recovering as early as November.

October Final Action dates for the EB-5 Regional Center categories remain uncertain as that category will sunset unless Congress acts prior to the end of the fiscal year. In setting cut-off dates for EB-1 China and EB-1 India, Charlie hoped to avoid having to establish a cut-off date for EB-1 Worldwide. Charlie expects that EB-1 China and EB-1 India will become current again in October, or November at the latest.

You may access the August 2016 Visa Bulletin here and the July 2016 Visa Bulletin here.

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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.

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” (November 12, 2015), 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 December 2015 Visa Bulletin and provides his projections for monthly final action date movement through the first calendar quarter of 2016.

EB-2 India: In December, the final action dates for EB-2 India will advance ten months to June 1, 2007. This is largely the result of a necessary correction following a roll-back in the date at the end of last fiscal year. As noted in the Bulletin, Charlie projects that EB-2 India may advance monthly by as much as eight months over the course of the next few months. In speaking with AILA, Charlie mentioned that a monthly advancement of eight months would be the best case scenario, but that the actual advancement is likely to be around four to six months at a time. Charlie expects that this movement will spur EB-3 upgrades which will eventually impact demand, slowing EB-2 India advancement. He expects the upgrade demand will start to materialize in December/January which will slow advancement in early 2016. Should the demand fail to materialize at the expected rate, then the “up to eight” month movement could occur.

The EB-2 and EB-3 China Dynamic: The EB-2 China final action date will remain the same in December 2015 and Charlie does not anticipate much, if any movement in this category over the next few months as he already expects that number use will exceed the targeted usage for the first quarter of the fiscal year. Charlie received requests for 600 numbers in October and has already received approximately 200 requests for numbers to date in November. Therefore, holding the cut-off will allow the number use figure to fall back within the targeted level over a period of time.

Since the final action date for EB-3 China is later than the EB-2 China final action date, Charlie expects that some EB-2 China cases will downgrade to EB-3, which will take some of the demand pressure off of EB-2 China. This phenomenon has happened the last two years and ultimately results in increased EB-3 demand which slows movement or even retrogresses that category, while at the same time allowing EB-2 China to advance once again. Charlie expects this rebalancing to occur at some point next year, possibly as early as April.

F-2A and F-2B: Last year, the family-based 2B category advanced very quickly because the demand did not initially materialize. The dates have now advanced to the point where demand is materializing. A similar phenomenon is occurring with regard to F-2A. The agent of choice letters are not spurring sufficient demand, so until demand materializes, we can expect to see continued advancements in this category. As noted previously, the response rate is low in many of the family-based preference categories.

Impact of Addition of “Filing Dates” Concept: It is too soon to determine when the new process will begin to provide the Visa Office with better visibility into immigrant visa demand so as to even out priority date movements in the employment-based categories. While preliminary data does not suggest that the filing dates adopted by USCIS will show enough demand to be meaningful, the impact, if any, is not expected to be known until at least April 2016 when USCIS starts to request visa numbers based upon the October filings.

Coming Attractions . . .

  • Release of Revamped Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM): The December Visa Bulletin included an announcement that the State Department’s internal guidance, known as the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), will be replaced with 9 FAM-e, effective November 18, 2015. The new FAM upon release and updates will be available in the coming weeks.
  • Expect to See the “Visa Waiting List” in the January Visa Bulletin: Charlie and his team are currently compiling the “Visa Waiting List” which will provide information on the waiting list at the National Visa Center (NVC) as of November 1, 2015. An announcement should occur in next month’s Visa Bulletin, if not sooner.

You may access the November 2015 Visa Bulletin here and the December 2015 Visa Bulletin here.

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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.

 

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

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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.

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” (August 14, 2015), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie answers a series of questions from the public, with no individual commentary on the immigrant visa preference categories for this month or next:

QUESTION 1: Last month you were hopeful that EB-2 India/China would hold steady or possibly advance for September. However both categories have retrogressed significantly. What caused this to occur?

ANSWER: The September retrogression of EB-2 China and India can primarily be attributed to skyrocketing demand for EB-2 Worldwide, which has left fewer numbers available for India and China. Currently, the availability of visas for India and China is largely driven by Worldwide demand. Earlier this year, EB-2 Worldwide demand was around 2,400 per month and started creeping up in March. In June, demand peaked at 6,700, and with July usage totaling 4,400 it was necessary to take corrective action for EB-2 China and India to limit future number use.

Similarly, fewer EB-1 numbers are available to fall down to EB-2 China and India. During the second quarter of the fiscal year, 9,300 EB-1 numbers were used. That jumped to 13,500 EB-1 numbers in the third quarter.

In particular, overall EB-2 India usage is down significantly this year due to the fact that fewer unused numbers are available for this category. Last fiscal year, EB-2 India used approximately 23,000 numbers. This year, it is expected that EB-2 India will use approximately 7,500 numbers. This is approximately 9,700 fewer numbers than that which were used in FY 2013.

 

QUESTION 2: How likely is it that EB-2 India and China will advance significantly with the start of the fiscal year on October 1?

ANSWER: It remains to be seen what will happen in October as we enter the new fiscal year.

 

QUESTION 3: Is it expected that all numbers in all categories will be exhausted by the end of the fiscal year?

ANSWER: Yes. All visa numbers in all categories will be exhausted. There has been some concern about EB-3 number use because there appeared to be a decrease in demand which caused the Worldwide cut-off date to advanced rapidly. There is sufficient EB-3 India applicants in the pending demand file to ensure that all “otherwise” unused numbers will be used this fiscal year.

 

QUESTION 4: The “Visa Modernization” proposal promises to refine the monthly allocation of visas, increasing the number of visas allocated during the first three quarters, and implementing new processes for allocation during the final quarter of the fiscal year. Can you please elaborate on this plan? Do you expect to implement the changes effective 10/1/15?

ANSWER: This is still a work in progress but members should be happy with what is ultimately rolled out. Some changes have already been implemented. As stated in the Visa Modernization proposal, members may see more aggressive cut-off date movements for some preference categories earlier in the year. Similar movement occurred earlier this year with regard to EB-2 India; advancement of that category started much earlier than in prior years to allow USCIS sufficient time to complete processing of the cases, many of which were EB-3 upgrades, earlier within the fiscal year. However, aggressive movement earlier in the year can have “negative” consequences during the final quarter when there are fewer numbers available. As a result it could be necessary to take corrective action if it becomes clear that there would be fewer numbers available from other categories.

In addition to accelerating cut-off date movements earlier in the fiscal year, other options are being explored. As plans are refined, the information will be made available to the public.

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

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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 new federal fiscal year begins on October 1, bringing an infusion of visa numbers.  Recently, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, recently shared his 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 October 2014 Visa Bulletin and Charlie’s predictions for future movement based on information available as of September 9, 2014.

EB-2 India: Retrogression Imminent

As articulated in Section D of the Visa Bulletin, retrogression of EB-2 India appears to be imminent, and could happen as early as November.  The October 2014 priority date for EB-2 India is May 1, 2009. Given current demand, the priority date will retrogress, possibly to a date in early 2005. Members should plan to file adjustment of status applications by the end of October for any eligible EB-2 India clients, as the window of opportunity may be closing.

A major factor in this anticipated retrogression is the large volume of EB-3 to EB-2 upgrades for Indian-born applicants. Based on filings at USCIS, Charlie anticipates a huge volume of India EB-2 demand in the coming months.

NOTE: In addition, the maximum number of EB-2 immigrant visas which are available for India for Fiscal Year 2014 has been reached.  Therefore, EB-2 India visas are “unavailable” until October 1, 2014. USCIS offices may continue to accept and process EB-2 India cases with priority dates earlier than May 1, 2009 during the month of September. However, instead of being acted upon immediately, those cases will be held in the Visa Office’s “Pending Demand” file until October 1, 2014, at which time they will be authorized.

EB-5 China

Following our last report, Charlie announced that EB-5 China numbers were depleted through the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2014). Though EB-5 China remains current for the start of the new fiscal year in October, Charlie continues to predict that a cut-off date will be imposed at some point during the second half of the fiscal year, possibly as early as May. This prediction is based on the assumption that USCIS will continue to issue approvals of EB-5 petitions at the current rate, as well as an assumption that a significant portion of the more than 5,000 applicants with approved EB-5 petitions at the National Visa Center (NVC) will come forward to be processed. It is also likely that more applicants will come forward to finalize action on their cases as we enter the final year of the three-year regional center pilot program. It is hoped that sufficient demand data will be available in January which will help in predicting future movement in this category.

Philippines

Demand for both employment-based and family-based visas for the Philippines continues to decrease which accounts for the advancing priority dates in these categories. The cut-off date for the EB-3 and “Other Worker” categories for the Philippines is the same as it is worldwide, October 1, 2011. The NVC has been sending “Choice of Address and Agent” (DS-3032) forms to beneficiaries in an effort to spur demand but so far it is not materializing. Though demand is low and dates will remain favorable for the foreseeable future, this may change if many more applicants come forward to claim immigrant visas.

A Glimpse Into the Preference-Based Visa Process

Have you ever wondered exactly how DOS and USCIS coordinate to ensure preference-based visas are processed efficiently? This month, Charlie provides some insight into the process.

In spring 2007, DOS implemented a new system to address USCIS processing problems that resulted when cut-off dates retrogressed prior to final action on a case. Prior to that time, USCIS would request a visa number from DOS through an automated system upon completion of processing an adjustment of status application. DOS would either grant authorization and allocate a visa number, or deny authorization if the applicant’s priority date was not current. If authorization was denied, USCIS would place the file on the shelf and the adjudicating officer was required to monitor the Visa Bulletin and pull the case when the priority date became current. As a result of the spring 2007 upgrade, cases that are denied authorization due to a non-current priority date are now accepted by DOS and maintained in a “Pending Demand” file. When the priority date becomes current, DOS automatically authorizes the case and notifies the appropriate USCIS office.

This system enables greater efficiency for USCIS and is a safeguard against cases “slipping through the cracks.” It also provides DOS with greater visibility of the pre-adjudicated demand, thus enabling Charlie to better predict priority date movement.

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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.

On November 14, 2013, after much controversy in the past years, the USCIS has finally clarified in its Policy Memorandum (PM-602-0093) that certain individuals who entered the U.S. pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) may apply for Adjustment of Status in the United States, including those who violated their 90-day term of stay.

VWP authorizes the nationals of designated countries to enter the US as visitors without a visa for a period of up to 90 days, provided they meet specific requirements for the program. [See the U.S. Department of State’s website for more information on VWP.]

As a condition of entry, VWP entrants are not permitted to change to a different visa status, apply for permanent residency (i.e. a “green card”), and waive the right to contest any action for removal.  An exception to the prohibition against applying for permanent residency for parents, spouses, or unmarried children under the age of 21 sponsored by a U.S. citizen (i.e. immediate relatives).  In recent years, controversy arose where qualifying VWP immediate relatives filed applications after the expiration of their authorized 90-day period.  Because a VWP overstay can be ordered removed (under INA section 217(b) and 8 CFR 217.4(b)) , numerous courts of appeals agree that, generally, a VWP overstay may not contest such a removal action on the basis that he or she has filed for permanent residency.  As a result, immediate relative VWP overstays who applied for permanent residency were routinely being denied and removed from the U.S. in some jurisdictions, but not in others.

In the newly published policy memorandum, USCIS directs that it will adjudicate immediate relative applications filed by VWP entrants, including overstays.  Adjudication is to occur prior to referral to ICE unless: (1) ICE has issued a removal order [If subject to a removal order, USCIS should deny the Form I-485 as a matter of discretion; ICE withdraws or rescinds the removal order, USCIS can then approve the application as appropriate.], (2) The adjustment applicant is under investigation for, has been arrested for (without disposition), or has been convicted of an egregious public safety offense (see USCIS Policy Memo 602-0050), or (3) There are fraud and/or national security issues that require resolution.  Applicants must meet all other requirements for the benefit sought before being able to be granted permanent residency.

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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 part of its transition to paperless processing of immigrant visa applications (IVPP), the US Department of State (US DOS) announced worldwide implementation of electronic forms DS-260 and DS-261.

The DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application replaces the paper-based DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (parts I and II); while the DS-261 Choice of Address and Agent will replace the DS-3032 Choice of Address and Agent.

The transition to the paperless forms became effective as of September 1, 2013.  Use of the DS-260/261 is mandatory for new cases.  That is, persons whose applications arrive at the National Visa Center (NVC) from the Immigration Service (USCIS) on or after September 1st must update their filings with the DS-260/261. 

DOS has stated that it will not require those with cases already in process or in the “pipeline” on as of September 1, 2013, to also complete the DS-260/261 if: 

  • the case has been “documentarily qualified” and sent for scheduling, or
  • NVC is able to documentarily qualify the case after receiving a single set of supporting documents.

If NVC finds the need after September 1st to request missing documents to complete a pending case, it will direct the applicant to also submit a DS-260 even if a DS-230 is on file.  This of course will likely add time to case processing until the transition period is complete.

A similar approach is being taken for immigrant visa cases that are currently in process abroad.  Separate instructions apply to Cuban Family Reunification Parole cases.   

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