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Upcoming Visa Bulletin: Current Trends and Future Projections

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On June 13, 2017, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) spoke with Charles Oppenheim, the Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division for the U.S. Department of State, to discuss current trends trends and future projections for various employment and family preference categories.

Family preference and employment immigrant categories are subject to numerical limitations and are divided by preference systems and priority dates on the Visa Bulletin. Family-sponsored preference categories are limited to a minimum of 226,000 visas per year, while employment-based preference categories are limited to a minimum of 140,000 visas per year. The Visa Bulletin is a useful tool for aliens to determine when a visa will become available to them so that they may apply for permanent residence. Applicants who fall under family preference or employment categories must wait in line until a visa becomes available to them in order to proceed with their immigrant visa applications. Once the immigrant’s priority date becomes current, per the Visa Bulletin, the applicant can proceed with their immigrant visa application.

Current Trends & Future Projections:

Employment-based preference categories:

EB-1 China and India:  

The final action date imposed on EB-1 China and EB-1 India (January 1, 2012) during the month of June of 2017, will remain and is expected to remain through the end of this fiscal year.

Per Charles Oppenheim, “Due to the availability (through May) of “otherwise unused numbers” in these categories, EB-1 China has used more than 6,300 numbers and EB-1 India has used more than 12,900 so far this fiscal year.”

EB-2 Worldwide:

Good news! EB-2 Worldwide remains current due to a slight decrease in demand in the second half of May and a steady level of demand in the month of June.

Projection: Oppenheim expects a final action cutoff date to be imposed on this category in August which is expected to be significant, however this category is expected to become current again on October 1, 2017.

EB-2 India:

There is a high demand for this category and a lack of unused numbers under the EB-2 annual limit.

During the month of July, the final action date for EB-2 India will advance to July 22, 2008.

Minimal advancement is expected to continue through the remainder of the fiscal year.

Projection: In the best case scenario the final action date for this category will be September or October 2008 for this fiscal year.

Per Oppenheim approximately 40% of available numbers are being used by beneficiaries who upgraded from EB-3 India.

EB-2 China and EB-3 China:

EB-2 China advanced to March 22, 2013 in the month of July, and will slowly progress throughout the remainder of the fiscal year.

EB-3 China will retrogress to January 1, 2012 in the month of July, due to EB-3 downgrades.

The final action date for EB-3 China Other Workers will remain at July 15, 2006. This date is expected to retrogress in the month of August.

The final action date of January 1, 2012 for EB-3 China will remain through the end of the fiscal year, but advance to October 1, 2014, effective October 1, 2017.

Per Oppenheim “The annual allocation for EB-3 China is only 2,500 because the Chinese Student Protection Act requires an offset of 1,000 numbers from the China employment-based visa annual limit each fiscal year. Three hundred of those numbers are deducted from the EB-3 limit, and seven hundred numbers are deducted from the EB-5 limit.”

EB-3 Worldwide:

In the month of July, EB-3 Worldwide will advance to June 8, 2017, keeping this category effectively current.

EB-3 India:

In the month of July, EB-3 India will advance to October 15, 2005, and should continue to advance.

EB-5 China:

The final action date for EB-5 China will remain at June 8, 2014, in the month of July. Oppenheim expects this category to advance to by one week for August.

Projection: forward movement may be possible during September depending on demand

FB-4 Worldwide:
In the month of July, the final action date for FB-4 Worldwide will be May 8, 2004. 

Projection: Oppenheim hopes to advance this category later in the fiscal year.

Applicants are advised to promptly respond to “Agent of Choice” letters issued by the National Visa Center, to be scheduled for an interview.

Currently, the response rate to these letters is less than 50% with only 35% of applicants providing all the information required for a visa interview to be scheduled. Charlie reminds members that it is important to promptly respond to an “Agent of Choice” letter. Failure to do so will result in delays.

Special Immigrants:

A final action date of August 15, 2015, will be imposed for EB-4 India in July.

In October, EB-4 India is expected to return to current.

A final action date for EB-4 will continue into FY 2018 for the other countries, though Mexico may have different date from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Please click here to see the July Visa Bulletin.