The State Department's May 2009 Visa Bulletin announces that all visa numbers for the employment third preference are used up until October 1, 2009. Persons with adjustment of status applications filed and receipted already can continue "in abeyance" with interim work and travel, as appropriate. Immigrant visa appointments already scheduled should go forward. It would appear that USCIS will continue to receive through the end of April adjustment of status applications based on "priority dates" that were current in the April Visa Bulletin, given the debacle of previous years when it was handled otherwise. A Note to the May 2009 Visa Bulletin states the following:
E. UNAVAILABILITY OF THE EMPLOYMENT THIRD PREFERENCE AND EMPLOYMENT THIRD PREFERENCE "OTHER WORKER" CATEGORIES
The cut-off dates for the Employment Third and Third preference "Other Worker" categories were held and then retrogressed in an effort to bring demand within the average monthly usage targets and the overall annual numerical limits. Despite these efforts, the amount of demand received from Citizenship and Immigration Services Offices for adjustment of status cases with priority dates that were significantly earlier than the established cut-off dates remained extremely high. As a result, these annual limits have been reached and both categories have become "Unavailable."
Visa availability in these categories will resume in October, the first month of the new fiscal year. [end of quotation]
The State Department tries to set the cut-off date for each category so that all of the visa numbers allocated by Congress for a fiscal year (October 1 - September 30) will be used up in an orderly process with roughly even amounts used each month. When possible, this allows settled expectations and orderly administration. However, most employment-based visa numbers are used not by the State Department in issuing immigrant visas at consulates abroad, but instead by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services in granting "adjustment of status" to applicants already working in the U.S. The State Department cannot see the pipeline of cases in USCIS, and USCIS has not tended to process these cases at an even pace. This year, USCIS has worked hard to clear out backlogs of cases that were filed during a confusing period of visa availability in the summer of 2007. In "digesting the pig in the snake," USCIS has already used up all the visa numbers that were available for the entire fiscal year, only halfway through that fiscal year.
The phenomenon gives rise to questions about how much longer after October people will wait who are in the queue for visa numbers already, and how long the wait will be for people pondering getting into the queue by having new labor certification applications or immigrant petitions filed for them. Those questions are difficult for anyone to answer, but the lines seem to be getting longer.