Positive news continues for most immigrant visa categories. The U.S. Department of State has published the Monthly Visa Bulletin for June 2015, announcing a significant advance in visa availability for the month of June under the EB-2 preference category for applicants born in China as visa availability continues to advance in most other categories. Unfortunately for EB-3 applicants born in the Philippines, visa availability under that category has retrogressed another two years.
EB-2 and EB-3 China
Beginning June 1, 2015, EB-2 applicants born in China (mainland) with a priority date earlier than June 1, 2013 may file Applications to Adjust Status to lawful permanent resident with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS), or have their pending applications approved. Applicants seeking to apply for their immigrant visas through an appropriate U.S. consulate abroad should also see their pending cases move forward through the National Visa Center and the designated consular post. The movement to a June 1, 2013 cut-off date is an advance of twelve months from the cut-off date posted in the May Visa Bulletin. Also beginning June 1, 2015, EB-3 applicants born in China (mainland) with a priority date earlier than September 1, 2011 may proceed with their applications. This represents a four-month advance in the cut-off date.
Despite these significant advances, the Chief of Visa Control and Reporting for the Department of State (DOS) projected that visa availability under the EB-2 China category may possibly taper off or even reach a correction (retrogression) later in the year.
The June Visa Bulletin also marks the continued advancement of the EB-2 India category. After moving up 16 months in March 2015, eight months in April and seven months in May, the EB-2 cut-off date for EB-2 applicants born in India has advanced an additional six months to October 1, 2008. However, DOS has indicated that it does not expect this category to advance at this pace beyond July and that it should slow down or stop in August or September.
In the most unfortunate news of the June Visa Bulletin, the retrogression of the EB-3 category for persons born in the Philippines continues, with the cut-off date moving back another two years to January 1, 2005. DOS has noted that visa availability advanced significantly for this category in recent months in order to ensure full usage, but rapid movement generated unexpected demand that has required significant retrogression since May 2015.
The rapid fluctuation in cut-off dates confirms Foster’s previous assessment of a DOS strategy of advancing cut-off dates by greater degrees earlier in the fiscal year, which begins in October, rather than using a more measured approach of evenly distributed advancements throughout the fiscal year. While this approach cannot result in the approval of applicants in excess of the annual quota, it is a strategy that should enable more applicants to file their Applications to Adjust Status earlier, perhaps by months or even years. Because applicants and their dependent spouses and children under 21 years of age are able to file applications for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) together with their applications to adjust status to U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident, earlier filing translates into earlier employment eligibility for spouses and dependent children.
The Department of State’s new approach may result in a comparative “roller coaster” of alternating periods of rapid advancement at the beginning of the fiscal year followed by retrogression or even complete unavailability at the end of each fiscal year. Accordingly, applicants should always proceed with filing Applications to Adjust Status as soon as they are eligible. Additionally, applicants should be prepared for a longer wait time from the date of filing to the date of final approval. Because this situation likely will have been caused by an artificial, earlier-than-expected Adjustment of Status filing date, applicants will likely receive certain benefits earlier even if the majority of applicants are not ultimately approved for permanent residency earlier.