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, 2018), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.
This month, Charlie examines the dramatic final action dates movement in the April Visa Bulletin, which hold steady for May, and provides his predictions on final action date movement in the coming months.
Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: June 13, 2017
Given that USCIS takes roughly five months to process I-485 applications to completion, the dramatic final action date advancements in the April Visa Bulletin were not completely unexpected as the objective is to spur more applications in May and June in order to ensure that the full visa numbers will be used by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2018. Since it is unlikely that most May I-485 filings will be processed to completion before the end of the fiscal year, many employment-based preference categories hold their April final action dates in the May Visa Bulletin, with only modest advancements in a few select categories. These advancements were made in an abundance of caution, based on data Charlie received from USCIS regarding the number of pending cases.
Categories in which final action dates will remain the same include:
EB-1 China and India;
EB-3 China and Philippines;
EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and
There are only five categories with modest advancements-
EB-2 China will move forward one month to September 1, 2014;
EB-3 India will advance three months to May 1, 2008;
EB-3 Other Workers China and India will advance one and three months respectively, to May 1, 2007 and May 1, 2008; and
EB-4 Mexico will advance roughly five weeks to October 22, 2016.
As Charlie predicted, EB-5 Vietnam became oversubscribed, due to high demand, and will assume a final action date of July 22, 2014 in May, tracking to EB-5 China.
Most family-based preference petitions are processed through the National Visa Center and U.S. consulates abroad, which accept applications based on the “filing date” rather than the final action date. As a result, Charlie has excellent visibility into demand in these categories, enabling a slow and steady progression of the final action dates with much less volatility than is seen in the employment-based preference categories. Final action dates advance modestly in May for all family-based preference categories, except FB-1 China, India and Worldwide, which hold at the April dates. T here is no retrogression in any of the family-based preference categories in May.
What can be expected in the coming months?
It is likely that most employment-based final action dates will hold at their May dates for the month of June with some changes possible in July. What occurs is entirely dependent on demand that may materialize, and continuing consultations with USCIS. The wildcard this year that could cause unanticipated fluctuations in the final action dates is the pace of USCIS field office processing of I-485s.
With regard to EB-1 China and India, it is too early to know whether the high worldwide EB-1 demand seen over the past few months is the result of a processing glut or sustained demand. It is likely that EB-1 China and India will hold for at least another month, but Charlie will continue to watch demand to determine whether any advancements may be possible.
While Charlie is hopeful that the advancements made in April to EB-2 China will be sufficient to exhaust the visa numbers in this category, he continues to monitor China EB-3 downgrades and is likely to hold the final action dates in these categories for at least another month. However, there still remains the possibility of some advancement later this fiscal year if the anticipated demand does not materialize.
As noted above, EB-4 Mexico advanced five weeks in May. Although Charlie predicted a summer retrogression of this category to track to the final action date of EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, if demand lightens it may be possible to avoid or perhaps delay retrogression for EB-4 Mexico.
You may access the April 2018 Visa Bulletin here and the May 2018 Visa Bulletin here.