The July Visa Bulletin contains some welcome news for India EB-2 and Philippines EB-3 applicants who are currently in the green card process and waiting for their priority date to become current. The India EB-2 priority date advanced to September 1, 2008 from November 14, 2004 (June 2014 Visa Bulletin) and the Philippines EB-3 priority date is now at January 1, 2009, which continues the forward movement we have seen in this category over the last several months. Although the India EB-2 date of September 1, 2008 is great news for many long-waiting applicants, given that it was stuck in 2004 for a long time, the priority date still has not recovered to its April 2012 Visa Bulletin date of May 1, 2010.
As a matter of background, the State Department’s Visa Bulletin establishes cut‐off dates based on the demand for green cards versus the amount actually available under current immigration law. Green cards are allocated based on family- or employment-based category and the applicant’s country of birth for each government fiscal year.
An individual’s priority date or “place in line” for an immigrant visa number under the employment‐based categories is the date on an employer filed a labor certification application or immigrant visa petition. Individuals assigned priority dates that are earlier than the relevant preference category cut‐off date noted in the Visa Bulletin are eligible to move to the last step in the employment‐based green card process – either processing of an adjustment of status application with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or processing of an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. When the category is “unavailable,” individuals cannot file for adjustment of status or receive an immigrant visa.
As it assesses green card demand and availability, the State Department’s Visa Office moves these cut‐off dates forward or back, or not at all. Rapid advancement of cut-off dates is used to generate increased demand or when the State Department calculates that there will be spillover numbers available from other categories. When the Visa Office predicts that all immigrant visa numbers in a particular category will be exhausted (or allocated) by the end of a particular fiscal year (i.e., September 30th), it will indicate an “unavailability” of numbers (marked as “U”) in the Visa Bulletin.
The law prevents any single country from overuse of immigrant visa numbers during a particular fiscal year. As a result, foreign nationals born in countries from which there is significant immigration to the U.S. will typically have a separate cut‐off date (and longer waiting times for an available green card number) in the Visa Bulletin.
Absent immigration reform that impacts the annual quotas or the per-country limitations, we expect that current backlogs will continue in countries of high immigration such as India, China, Mexico and the Philippines.