Perhaps in response to the recent presidential election, the demand for immigrant visas has noticeably surged across most employment-based immigrant visa preference categories. While the final action dates for most preference categories have moved forward, meaning additional numbers of foreign nationals may proceed with applications for immigrant visa processing or adjustment of status, Charles Oppenheim, the Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State (DOS), forecasts that additional final action cutoff dates are likely be imposed for several of the preference categories that are "current" as of today.
DOS publishes a monthly visa bulletin that contains cutoff dates for filing an adjustment-of-status application based upon a foreign national's country of chargeability and his or her immigrant visa preference category. In order to file an application for immigrant visa processing or to adjust status to permanent residence in an employment-based category, the employee's priority date (which generally is the filing date of the permanent labor certification application (PERM) or the immigrant visa petition-whichever is earlier) must be current. A priority date is "current" if it is prior to the cutoff date or final action date listed in the Visa Bulletin based on the employee's country of chargeability and employment-based preference category. Once the priority date becomes current, the employee can immediately apply for his or her green card to become a lawful permanent resident.
The first visa bulletin published in 2017 indicates overall forward movement in final action cutoff dates across most employment-based immigrant visa preference categories; however, DOS predicts that increased demand is likely to result in additional immigrant visa backlogs.
EB-1. The first-priority employment-based preference category (EB-1) is current for all countries, but DOS predicts that a final action cutoff date will be imposed for EB-1 China and EB-1 India later this year due to increased demand.
EB-2. The second-priority employment-based preference category (EB-2) is current for all countries except China and India. The EB-2 China category has seen forward movement by over three weeks from September 22, 2012 to October 15, 2012. In addition, the final action cutoff date for the EB-2 India category has moved forward significantly by over two months from February 1, 2008 to April 15, 2008. So far, the EB-2 India category has not been able to return to the November 22, 2008, final action date that was reached in May 2015, and unfortunately, upgrades from the EB-3 India category are likely to minimize any forward movement for EB-2 India. Moreover, DOS predicts that a final action cutoff date will need to be imposed for all countries in the EB-2 category later this year in response to heightened demand.
EB-3. The overall demand for the third-priority employment-based preference category (EB-3) has declined, which contributed to positive forward movement. The cutoff dates for all countries have moved forward, except for EB-3 India where the final action cutoff date remains the same as at March 15, 2005. EB-3 Philippines moved forward by nearly two months from June 1, 2011 to July 22, 2011. Similarly, EB-3 China has progressed by over two months from July 1, 2013 to September 8, 2013. In addition, the final action cutoff date for all other countries in the EB-3 category has moved forward by one month from July 1, 2016 to August 1, 2016. Due to declining demand for the EB-3 category and the DOS's prediction that final action cutoff dates will need to be imposed for the EB-2 category in the coming months, some foreign nationals may want to begin considering potential downgrades from the EB-2 category to EB-3 based on recent trends.
Although the visa bulletin provides a second chart with the dates for filing certain employment-based visa applications in advance of an immigrant visa number being available for final action, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has determined that only the Final Action Dates chart can be used this month for adjustment of status applications.
The complete January 2017 Visa Bulletin and Final Action dates are accessible on the DOS website.