Articles Posted in Backlogs

welcome-2022838_1280

In this blog post, we provide new insights recently shared by Charlie Oppenheim, the former Chief of Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting at the U.S. Department of State, who oversaw the monthly publication of the Visa Bulletin until his retirement in 2022.

In a recent Chatting with Charlie webinar, he provided his expertise regarding the future movement of the employment based and family preference categories on the Visa Bulletin.

The Dates for Filing for the employment based and family sponsored preference categories have remained the same since the publication of the October Visa Bulletin with no forward movement to be seen.

In the month of February, the Final Action Dates progressed only slightly as follows:

Employment-based

  • EB-2 Worldwide advanced by two weeks to November 15, 2022
  • EB-3 India advanced by one month to July 1, 2012
  • EB-3 all other countries advanced by one month to September 1, 2022 (except China)
  • EB-5 China (Unreserved) advanced by one week to December 15, 2015.

Family-sponsored

  • F2A all categories (except Mexico) advanced by more than 3 months to February 8, 2020
  • F2A Mexico advanced by more than 3 months to February 1, 2020

Continue reading

engineering-4091814_1280

Newly released data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has shown that thanks to policy guidance released in January 2022, more foreign nationals working in the STEM fields are receiving O-1A visas than ever before.

In just the first year of issuing its revised guidance for example, issuance of O-1A visas soared by 30% to 4,570 and remained steady throughout fiscal year 2023.

USCIS’ clarifying policy guidance also benefitted EB-2 applicants with advanced STEM degrees seeking the National Interest Waiver petition. The number of such visas approved in 2022 increased by 55% over 2021, to 70,240 visas and remained at a high level throughout 2022.

Recent policy clarifications have helped those with advanced degrees in the STEM fields understand whether they meet the qualifying criteria of the O-1A and EB-2 National Interest Waiver petition, because USCIS has been much more transparent in listing examples of the types of evidence that will satisfy the evidentiary criteria, focusing on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of evidence typically submitted in these fields.

One of the more interesting updates USCIS provided in its policy guidance, emphasizes that with respect to O-1A petitions, if a particular criterion does not readily apply to the applicant’s field, comparable evidence may be submitted to establish sustained acclaim or recognition, including examples of comparable evidence for those working in the STEM fields, 2 USCIS-PM M.4, Appendices Tab.

Continue reading

passport-3127935_1280

The past year saw big victories for worldwide visa operations.

The Department of State recently provided statistics summarizing its visa processing capacity in the year 2023. The recent data shows tremendous advancement in visa processing capacity at Consular posts globally and provides a strong outlook for visa processing in the year 2024.

In the year 2023, the Department of State issued more nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies worldwide than at any other time since 2015.

This included issuing a record of 10.4 million nonimmigrant visas globally, with more than 1 million nonimmigrant visas issued in a single month during March of 2023.

Some of the State Department’s accomplishments include:

  • The reunification of families, with the issuance of 563,000 immigrant visas (IVs) in FY 2023, with 30 of its missions issuing their largest number of immigrant visas ever.  Consular sections worldwide have reduced the overall immigrant visa interview scheduling backlog by nearly half, from nearly 532,000 in July 2021, to just over 275,500.
  • Prioritizing student and academic exchange visitor visa interviews to facilitate study at U.S. universities and colleges. Consular sections issued 830,000 student and exchange visitor visas in FY 2023, more than in any year since FY 2016.  More than 600,000 of those were for students pursuing an education in the United States, many of them from countries sending record numbers of students. Of these numbers, nearly 40,000 visas were issued to African students which set an all-time record.
  • Record numbers of visas were issued for seasonal agricultural and non-agricultural workers to facilitate the legal and orderly flow of labor. A record-breaking 442,000 visas were issued to H-2A and H-2B temporary workers in 2023, with nearly 90 percent of visas issued to workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 
  • A record number of 365,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crewmembers (C1/D) which are essential to maintaining international transportation and supply chains that support the U.S. and global economies.

Continue reading

visa-3653492_1280

The rumors are true. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Department of State (DOS) will process domestic visa renewals for certain H-1B visa applicants without requiring them to leave the United States.

This is all part of a new pilot program starting January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, that will allow 20,000 qualified H-1B nonimmigrant workers the opportunity to renew their visas domestically.

The Department of State hopes the pilot program will reduce heavy backlogs at more than 200 consular sections worldwide by making available an increased number of interview appointments for other visa categories, especially first-time travelers applying for business and tourism visas who require in-person interviews.

At the same time, DOS seeks to alleviate the burden on U.S. companies that employ H-1B workers by streamlining the visa renewal process.

The Department will accept applications for the pilot program starting January 29, 2024 on its webpage.

After the initial application period which ends on April 1st the Department will expand the scope of the program.


What are the Requirements to Participate?


Participation in this pilot will be limited to applicants who(se):

  1. Are seeking to renew an H–1B visa; during the pilot phase, the Department will not process any other visa classifications;
  2. Prior H–1B visa that is being renewed was issued by Mission Canada with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023; or by Mission India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021;
  3. Are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (Note: this is commonly referred to as a “reciprocity fee”);
  4. Are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement;
  5. Have submitted ten fingerprints to the Department in connection with a previous visa application;
  6. Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;
  7. Do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to visa issuance;
  8. Have an approved and unexpired H–1B petition;
  9. Were most recently admitted to the United States in H–1B status;
  10. Are currently maintaining H–1B status in the United States;
  11. Period of authorized admission in H–1B status has not expired; and
  12. Intend to reenter the United States in H–1B status after a temporary period abroad.

Applicants that fall outside of this scope are not eligible to apply for a visa domestically.

Continue reading

boliviainteligente-je6MW99qDhQ-unsplash-scaled

The January 2024 Visa Bulletin is finally here, and with it some big advancements for the employment-based preference categories in the New Year, specifically for India and China, and some promising forward movement in the Final Action Dates for EB-2 Worldwide and EB-3 Professional/Skilled Workers Worldwide.

For family-sponsored categories, the New Year brings big advancements in the Final Action Dates for F2A Mexico, F2 Worldwide, F2B Mexico, F3 Mexico, F3 Worldwide, and modest advancements for F4. The Dates for Filing remain the same as December.

Whether you are applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas or applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence in the United States, you won’t want to miss these new updates.


Highlights of the January 2024 Visa Bulletin


Employment-based categories

  • EB-1 India: The EB-1 India Final Action Date will advance by three years and eight months, to September 1, 2020, and the Date for Filing will advance by a year and a half, to January 1, 2021.
  • EB-1 China: The EB-1 China Final Action Date will advance by four and a half months, to July 1, 2022, and the Date for Filing will advance five months, to January 1, 2023.
  • EB-2: The EB-2 Final Action Date for India will advance by two months, to March 1, 2012, and the EB-2 China Final Action Date will advance by approximately nine weeks, to January 1, 2020. Final Action Dates for the remaining countries in EB-2 will advance by three and a half months, to November 1, 2022.
  • EB-3 Professional/Skilled Workers: The EB-3 Professional/Skilled Worker Final Action Dates will advance by over 7 months for China, to September 1, 2020, and by one month for India, to June 1, 2012. Final Action Dates for the remaining countries in the category will advance by eight months, to August 1, 2022.

Continue reading

turtle-303732_1280

The release of the December Visa Bulletin has brought few positive changes for immigrants in both the family sponsored and employment-based preference categories. In this blog post, we share with you everything you need to know regarding the movement (or lack thereof) of the categories for the month of December.

Whether you are applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas or applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence in the United States, you won’t want to miss these important updates.


Highlights of the December 2023 Visa Bulletin


Unfortunately, the December Visa Bulletin brings little to no changes across most employment-based categories and family-sponsored categories from the previous month of November. The Dates for Filing of all employment and family-sponsored categories remain unchanged from the previous month.

The Final Action Dates for family-sponsored categories also remain unchanged from the previous month.

With respect to the Final Action Dates for the employment categories, EB-2 China will advance by three weeks to October 22, 2019, and EB-3 China will advance to January 22, 2020. The Final Action Dates for the remaining employment-based categories remain unchanged from the previous month.

EB-4 Certain Religious Workers will become unavailable in the month of December.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart December 2023


For the month of December 2023, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed that the Dates for Filing chart in the December 2023 Visa Bulletin will continue to be used in determining eligibility for I-485 adjustment of status filings (green card filings inside the US).

Continue reading

money-g45beb618b_1280

In this blog post, we close out the week with some great news that may be of interest to EB-5 Immigrant Investors.

On Tuesday July 18th the U.S. Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new changes to the processing of Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor, for EB-5 investment to improve processing times and create greater efficiency.


How Will USCIS Process I-526 Petitions?


The USCIS Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) manages Form I-526 petition inventory through workflow queues factoring in whether: a visa is available (or will be available soon) and the underlying project has been reviewed.

Workflow queues are generally managed in first-in, first-out (FIFO) order when a visa is available or will be available soon.

Effective July 18, 2023, IPO will update its approach by grouping petitions by new commercial enterprise (NCE) with filing dates on or before November 30, 2019, within the workflow queue of petitions where the project has been reviewed and there is a visa available or soon to be available, to gain greater processing efficiencies.

In practice this means that multiple petitions with the same new commercial enterprise (NCE) will be assigned to the same adjudicator(s) to help process them more quickly. This is because multiple petitions associated with the same NCE will have an overlap in project documents and issues presented.

This approach will help reduce current EB-5 backlogs, that are stretching to a 4 to 5 year waiting period from date of filing.

Continue reading

maddi-bazzocco-dMiA8hyMNaU-unsplash-scaled

We are happy to report that the August Visa Bulletin has been released!

As we do every month, we share what you can expect to see in the upcoming month’s visa bulletin for family-sponsored and employment-based preference categories to help you prepare for your immigrant visa filing at a U.S. Consulate overseas, or your green card filing for those residing in the United States.


Highlights of the August 2023 Visa Bulletin


Employment Based Categories


Final Action cutoff dates – Retrogressions in August:

  • EB-1 India will retrogress by more than 10 years to January 1, 2012, in August 2023. The State Department indicates that depending on usage in the category and on the FY 2024 annual numerical limit, it is likely that in October 2023 the cutoff date will return to at least February 1, 2022
  • EB-1 Worldwide, China: The State Department has imposed a final action cutoff date for EB-1A Worldwide for all countries except China, at August 1, 2023. The EB-1 China Final Action Date will remain at February 1, 2022.
  • EB-2 Worldwide, China:  EB-2 China will advance by one month, to July 8, 2019. The Final Action Date for EB-2 India will remain at January 1, 2011. The EB-2 Worldwide Final Action Date will advance by six weeks, to April 1, 2022 for all other countries.
  • EB-3: The Final Action Date for EB-3 China Professional/Skilled Worker will advance by two months, to June 1, 2019. EB-3 India Professional/Skilled Worker will remain at January 1, 2009. For all other countries, the EB-3 Professional/Skilled Worker Final Action Date will retrogress by almost two years, to May 1, 2020.

Family-sponsored categories


Dates for Filing cutoff dates – Advancements in August:

  • F-1 Mexico will advance by 2 years and 3 months to April 1, 2005 from January 1, 2003
  • F2A will remain current for all categories
  • F2B Mexico will advance by 2 years and 4 months to August 1, 2004 from April 1, 2002

What is the Visa Bulletin?


The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month in the employment and family preference categories.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart August 2023


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published guidance indicating that USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment of status applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Final Action Dates listed in the State Department’s August 2023 Visa Bulletin.

For family-sponsored filings, USCIS will accept adjustment of status applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Dates for Filing listed in the State Department’s August 2023 Visa Bulletin.

You may also find the Adjustment of Status USCIS Filing Charts here:


August 2023 Visa Bulletin Dates for Filing Cutoff Dates


 Employment-Based Categories


FINAL ACTION DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES


According to the Department of State’s August 2023 Visa Bulletin, the following Final Action cutoff dates will apply for employment-based categories, which will determine whether an adjustment of status application can be filed with USCIS in the month of August:

  • EB-1: China remains unchanged at February 1, 2022. India will retrogress by 10 years and 1 month, to January 1, 2012. All other countries will receive a final action cutoff date of August 1, 2023.
  • EB-2: India will remain at January 1, 2011. China will remain by 1 month to July 8, 2019. All other countries will advance by 6 weeks to April 1, 2022
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: India will remain at January 1, 2009. China will advance by 2 months to June 1, 2019. All other countries will retrogress by 1 year and 9 months to May 1, 2020.
  • EB-3 Other Workers: India will remain at January 1, 2009, China will remain at September 1, 2015. All other countries will remain at January 1, 2020.
  • EB-4: All countries will remain at September 1, 2018.
  • EB-5: For the EB-5 Unreserved categories (C5, T5, I5, and R5), India will remain at April 1, 2017, and China will remain at September 8, 2015. All other countries will remain current. The EB-5 “Set-Aside” categories (Rural, High Unemployment, and Infrastructure) will remain current.

Continue reading

boy-gb1e2285a2_1280

This past week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the implementation of a new Family Reunification Parole (FRP) program for foreign nationals of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, that falls in line with previous governmental policies aimed at reducing unlawful migration.

The program will benefit nationals of such countries whose family members are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and have received approval to join their family in the United States.

Nationals of these countries can be considered for parole on a case-by-case basis for a period of up to three years while they wait to apply to become a lawful permanent resident. This means that those who are eligible for parole will have the opportunity to lawfully reside inside of the United States while applying for lawful permanent residence for a period of up to three years.

The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, said that “These new processes promote family unity and provide lawful pathways consistent with our laws and our values,” and will allow for the expansion of safe, orderly, and lawful pathways to reduce “dangerous, irregular migration to the United States.”

Continue reading

hand-truck-564242_1280

We are happy to inform our readers that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has launched a new online change of address form for noncitizens.


What is the online change of address form?


This new form gives noncitizens the option to update their information online instead of having to do so by phone or in-person.

To process an online change-of-address, the system requires a full name, A-number, and validated non-commercial address. It takes approximately one minute to complete the form.

This tool will make it easier for noncitizens to comply with their immigration obligations and improve the accuracy of address information reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by utilizing address autofill to ensure U.S. Postal Service standardization.


Reporting a Change of Address with USCIS


As a reminder, all noncitizens in the United States, except A and G visa holders and visa waiver visitors, must also report a change of address to USCIS within 10 days of relocating.

You may change your address with USCIS online here.


Reporting a Change of Address with Immigration Court


Once a noncitizen has entered a valid mailing address, if they are currently in removal proceedings pursuant to Section 240 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the interactive online system will provide the noncitizen with information on how to also change their address with the immigration court as required, using the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) Form EOIR-33, Change of Address/Contact Information. Form EOIR-33 can be submitted by mail, in-person at the immigration court, or online through EOIR’s Respondent Access.

Continue reading