Visa Office Update on Employment Based Priority Dates and Demand, 20 January 2012

On Thursday, January 19, 2012, Charlie Oppenheim of the Visa Office explained the Visa Bulletin, visa demand in the employment preference categories, and predictions for FY2012. Notes from his discussion are:

  • EB green card usage has been very slow in FY2012, so DOS is advancing the dates to see how many cases are out there. Mr. Oppenheim is relying on USCIS and their estimate. USCIS thought more would come in, but 50% their estimate have actually filed an AOS. This movement is due in large part to the clearing out of the EB-2 2007 AOS cases. Mr. Oppenheim reminds us that DOS cannot "see" the I-140 cases that are approved and for which adjustment of status had been requested prior to September 2010, though he can "see" cases for which consular processing is requested.
  • Mr. Oppenheim could not speculate why usage is slow/low. Economy? Foreign nationals lost jobs?
  • Low usage of EB-1 numbers is assumed again this year. A fall-down of 12,000 additional EB-1 numbers into EB-2 is calculated into Mr. Oppenheim's projections for 2012, although he thinks EB-1 number availability may be down by approximately 1,000 as compared to last year, due to heavier EB-5 usage since unused EB-5 numbers "spill up" to EB-1 and then down to EB-2.
  • Mr. Oppenheim is very surprised by the severe downturn in EB-1 numbers. We cited the impact of Kazarian on USCIS filings and demand for EB-1-1 numbers, and the fact that it is difficult for an owner-beneficiary to obtain approval of EB-1-3 petitions.
  • About 34% of the total number of permanent visas have been used this year, and 45% should be used by end of February.
  • Adjustment of status through USCIS accounts for 85% to 90% of all EB green card cases.
  • The impact on number usage of upgrades (EB-3 to EB-2) is still unknown. Upgrades were the reason the priority dates advanced so slowly in the beginning of FY2011. For upgrades, the EB-3 case does not get cleared out of the system until the EB-2 for the same person is approved.
  • Mr. Oppenheim also wonders whether demand is weak for visas for dependent family members, and so fewer green cards are needed.
  • Mr. Oppenheim meets monthly with USCIS and the Ombudsman's office to review the receipt of cases. There was a recent meeting to discuss December numbers. There will be another review before he decides what he will do in March.

Prediction:

  • Employment-based priority dates will advance again with the March Visa Bulletin, likely by at least a few months. An advance of six months is possible, although an advance of one year is not likely. He will know as this month moves on. With normal USCIS adjustment of status processing times of four-to-six months, March is the last time for Mr. Oppenheim to get the AOS cases filed and possibly approved in FY2012. He will then probably hold the priority date over the summer, and then retrogress or advance it if needed. Mr. Oppenheim does not have enough data to predict demand and priority date changes in the last quarter of FY2012.
  • USCIS is agreeing to the priority date advances, though significant advances are bit of a gamble for USCIS, because if they get inundated with adjustment filings, and subsequently there is priority date retrogression, USCIS will have to process EAD and advance parole extensions without additional fees. As we all know, retrogression causes chaos.