Significant changes to the Visa Bulletin

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Department of State (DOS) are changing  the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status. This revised process is supposed to approve the agencies’ ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin.

The Visa Bulletin revisions implement November 2014 executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson, as detailed in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, issued in July 2015.

The Visa Bulletin has changed.  Now, two charts per visa preference category will be posted in the DOS Visa Bulletin:

  • Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
  • Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).

 

Each month, in coordination with DOS, USCIS will monitor visa numbers and post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart. Applicants can use the charts to determine when to file their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

 

To determine whether additional visas are available, USCIS will compare the number of visas available for the remainder of the fiscal year with:

  • The known qualified visa applicants reported by DOS;
  • Pending adjustment of status applications reported by USCIS; and
  • Historical drop off rate (for example, denials, withdrawals, abandonments).

These changes will have significant impacts on people who have been stuck in immigration limbo due to unavailability of visas.  By allowing people to submit adjustment of status applications earlier, they will be allowed to obtain work authorization and travel documents.  Moreover, this approach may allow less children of visa applicants to “age out.”  The changes have just been announced and we are working our way through the changes.  But this is a very exciting development in the way that the United States distributes visas to foreign nationals.