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Visa Office Updated Information on Priority Dates and Demand

Below are notes from a recent phone call with Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State’s Visa Office in which the Visa Bulletin, visa demand in the employment and family preference categories, and predictions for the remainder of FY2013 was discussed. These notes are Mr. Oppenheim’s impressions at this time, and are subject to change based on usage or new developments.

  • Mr. Oppenheim’s office has spent considerable time over the past several weeks looking at various proposals for immigration reform, and how they would impact backlog numbers. The office’s predictions as to how the priority dates will move for the next several months are in the March Visa Bulletin.
  • His office was concerned that the EB5 numbers for China were moving too fast, but as of late, they appear to be “liveable,” and accordingly, at this time he does not expect a cut off for China EB5, so long as usage remains at the current levels.
  • Worldwide EB5 usage is up 75% when compared with this time last year. He does not know how the relocation of EB5 adjudication from the California Service Center to USCIS Headquarters will impact the usage.
  • The India EB2 cutoff date continues to see very little forward movement due to upgrades (EB3 to EB2 while maintaining the earlier priority date). In December 2012 alone, India EB2 had 125 cases approved that were from 2003 or earlier. Even looking at the current 2004 cutoff dates, EB2 India could easily reach the annual limit. However, the fall down from EB1 could allow for more numbers to be used for EB2 India.
  • It is still unknown how many EB5 and EB1 numbers will fall down to EB2.
  • Upgrades continue to be a tough issue to manage. USCIS does not appear to be working to develop any processes or procedures to better capture upgrade EB cases, and so there is no better information expected from that agency to assist Mr. Oppenheim’s office in better managing these numbers.
  • Upgrades are impacting other categories as well. Worldwide EB3 had 1,100 upgrades in December 2012 alone for cases which had priority dates of 2011 or earlier. In 2007 for example, there were only 72 upgrades for the year.
  • EB1 India and China appear to have used their numbers for this year, but the rest of open EB1 numbers can “fall across” to satisfy the need from India and China for EB1, so no retrogression is expected at this time.
  • Current numbers indicate that there are approximately 42,000 India EB2 cases in line with priority dates prior to May 2010.
  • There are 12,000 India EB3 cases with priority dates before January 2004. Mr. Oppenheim’s office has very good information regarding how many India EB3 cases are lined up for the older dates, due to the 2007 retrogression. For example, there are 63 cases with a November 18, 2002 priority date. Accounting for demand in India EB3 has been pretty precise.
  • EB-2 India demand continues to be very high, and it is possible that the cutoff date may be retrogressed during this fiscal year.
  • India EB3 has 44,000 cases with priority dates before August 2007, which have been pre-adjudicated, though final approval and visa issuance has not taken place due to priority date retrogressions over the past several years.

Additional notes:

  • We asked how unused visa numbers are put back into the system to be reused in a fiscal year: Adjustment of Status cases are given numbers for cases that are current, which are retuned by the NSC or the TSC if the case cannot/will not be approved. Cases at posts overseas are given a block of numbers every month, and if the posts cannot approve the case, are sent back to Mr. Oppenheim’s office.
  • How many derivatives use immigrant visas along with the principal applicant? For 2012, 45% of the visa numbers in the queue are for the principal applicants, and 55% are for dependents. Years ago, the usage by dependents was much smaller.
  • Worldwide EB3 has 42,000 pre-adjudicated cases with priority dates before March 2007.
  • A little known fact is that unused FB cases can be used for EB cases, but due to heavy FB usage, this usually does not occur. However, for the same country, Mr. Oppenheim’s office can move low usages of FB cases into EB cases and vice versa. However, both the EB and FB total usage for any one country is still subject to the per country limit.
  • Family-based numbers are moving faster this year than in years past (in part to ensure unused FB numbers are not lost), so the movement in the FB cases are projected to move slowly in the March Visa Bulletin.
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