News & Insights

Visa Bulletin Predictions For Employment and Family-Based Cases And DOS Announces Tiered Approach To Prioritize Visas

During an interview with Charlie Oppenheim of the State Department, the following statements and predictions were made in relation to employment-based and family-based categories.

Employment-based visas

  • In 2021 there are approximately 262,000 employment-based visas. However, it is expected that the Department of State (DOS) will not be able to process all these visas due to limited capacity caused by COVID-19 and therefore there will be unused visas by the end of the year;
  • EB-2 India dates will move forward aggressively for June and July of 2021 however, DOS has to also ensure that there are sufficient visas for the “all other” countries category;
  • There will be no retrogression for EB2 and EB-3 final action dates for India and it is expected that all final action dates for all countries will continue to move forward;
  • Unused visas for EB-2 are made available based on priority date order and therefore any unused second preference visas will go to India rather than China as the Final action date for India for EB-2 is Aug 1, 2020, whereas China EB-2 is Dec 1, 2016;
  • The number of downgrades from EB-2 to EB-3 for India will potentially impact the forward movement of EB-3 dates for India, although Charlie Oppenheim said it was still too early to tell;
  • India EB-3 final dates moved by 5 months for the May 2021 visa bulletin. Charlie Oppenheim expects the EB-3 final action dates to move aggressively for the month of June, but it could slow down in July although, at this point, he believes it is unlikely; and
  • The unused family visas from 2020 were added to this year’s employment-based visas (122,000 approximately), meaning more visas are available than is usually the case. If as expected the visas are not all used, then they would be added back to the family-based visas for 2022.

Family-based visas

  • “All other,” countries category priority dates are not expected to advance over the summer, however, they will not retrogress this year;
  • However, the “all other,” countries category and India are expected to move forward in June for the fourth preference category (F4 Brothers and Sisters of adult USCs); and
  • Filing dates are typically 8-10 months out from the final action dates, but due to COVID 19 issue impacting processing overseas the family dates have not been moving as fast; and
  • Approximately 95% of family-based cases are processed overseas compared with approximately 85% to 90% of the employment-based numbers are used for adjustment of status cases.

Charlie Oppenheim also made a general comment that COVID-19 has severely restricted the Consulate’s operations and is dependent on the conditions at each particular post.  Individuals are advised to check the travel.state.gov website that has links to all of the US Consulates to find information on the operational status of the post that is handling your case.

In terms of processing immigrant visas DOS has announced a 4- tier approach which will give preference to services where there is a US citizen involved and is as follows:

  • Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases and certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government);
  • Tier Two: Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas;
  • Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad; and
  • Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas.

Based on the above comments we expect to see some good forward movement for both EB-2 and EB-3 dates for India over the summer and with the increase in visas and the start of the fiscal year we can expect to see even more movement in October 2021.

For further details on the above please do not hesitate to contact PLG Partner Chris Prescott at cprescott@patellegal.com.

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