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  • Article: April 2013 Visa Bulletin Predictions by Tahmina Watson

    April 2013 Visa Bulletin Predictions

    by Tahmina Watson

    So many of my readers are waiting anxiously for the April 2013 Visa Bulletin, that I thought I should post this from AILA, I have made bold the notes I think my readers will find important, particularly that EB2 India might have further retrogression this year.

    Visa Office Update on Priority Dates and Demand (Updated 2/22/13)

    Cite as “AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12012349 (posted Feb. 22, 2013)” 

    On Thursday, January 31, 2013, Roberta Freedman, AILA Students & Scholars Committee member, and Mike Nowlan, Chair of the AILA Business Committee, discussed the Visa Bulletin, visa demand in the employment and family preference categories, and predictions for the remainder of FY2013 with Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State’s Visa Office. Below are notes from that call. 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.

    On Thursday, August 30, 2012, Roberta Freedman, AILA Students & Scholars Committee member, and Mike Nowlan, Chair of the AILA Business Committee, discussed the Visa Bulletin, visa demand in the employment preference categories, and predictions for FY2012 and FY2013 with Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State’s Visa Office. These are only discussions of what could happen and are not assurances or guarantees by the Visa Office, as changes in visa usage result in changes in the Visa Bulletin.

    Notes from that discussion are:

    • Employment Based (EB)-1 visa usage is extremely high. August 2012 was at a near record high. The Visa Office does not know why. Is USCIS clearing out backlogs because of the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or is this pent up demand from 2011, or more “upgrades”? The answer is unknown. The EB-1 visa category could close in September if usage remains this high (close the 40,000). It would then go current in October. In July 2012, EB-1 usage was almost 3,000, of which roughly 1,200 had 2011 or earlier priority dates, and the rest had 2012 priority dates. The 13,000 unused EB-1 numbers that were expected in FY2012, and which would then “drop down” to EB-2, did not happen.
    • EB-2 India priority date will probably go to 2006 when the Visa Bulletin is published next month (not 2007 as previously predicted). This is due in part to the retrogression in 2012, as well as the high level of EB-1 usage. India is expected to stay in 2006 for some time. It could fall back to 2005, but that does not appear likely right now. Slow movement in this category in FY2013 is expected.
    • EB-2 China priority date will be further ahead than India, but that assessment has not been completed yet.
    • EB-2 worldwide may go current in October, or it may go to early 2012 and then current in the November Visa Bulletin – a 2 step process. Why the delay? Employment-based numbers move in a fairly predictable usage pattern (unlike family-based cases). As a result, the Visa Office prefers to have a steady usage of EB cases per month. There are expected to be many EB-2 worldwide cases pending or filed in October, and slowing the usage could help predict usage for the rest of the year. A “correction” in EB-2 worldwide towards the latter part of FY2013 could happen (in other words, potentially visa retrogression for EB-2 worldwide and no longer current).
    • EB-3 worldwide should remain as posted for the rest of September. No prediction could be given as to where it will go in the October Visa Bulletin. Steady progress is expected in FY2013, unless heavy EB-1 and EB-2 usage in FY2013, which would slow the speed of EB-3 worldwide.

    Other comments:

    As reported previously, another problem with trying to predict the demand is that USCIS is not providing real time data on EB-3 to EB-2 “upgrades”, and the Visa Office is also seeing a significant number of EB-2 to EB-1 “upgrades.” “Upgrades” continue to be a big “wildcard,” as no one knows how many are being used per month. Mr. Oppenheim confirmed his previous comments that USCIS cannot tell him how many upgrades are filed. He would appreciate a process where USCIS notifies his office when the I-140 for the EB-2 “upgrade” is filed, so he can understand what is in the pipeline. Since the retrogression earlier this year, the Visa Office has better data on the cases pending than they did previously because cases filed with a pending adjustment of status application are pre-adjudicated, which gives his office more detail on the person’s priority date history. Retrogression is still a problem, but understanding the data is a small benefit to it.

    Upgrades were initially limited to India and China. Worldwide upgrades are now occurring, with 2,900 upgrades for EB-2 worldwide in February 2012. Over 500 of those had a priority date of 2009 or earlier. The Visa Office knows it has 3,500 EB-2 worldwide cases pre-adjudicated and ready to be approved on October 1st and expects more new filings in October.

    Family Based (FB) 2A cases: Usage is dropping. Outreach programs seem to increase usage. Immigrant visa waiver delays, primarily in Mexico, also slow usage. FB-2A usage is slower than it should be so the priority dates are expected to move forward at the same pace as FY2012. However, if demand continues to be low, this group may move forward more significantly in the spring of 2013.


    On Tuesday, June 19, 2012, Roberta Freedman, AILA Students & Scholars Committee member, discussed the Visa Bulletin, visa demand in the employment preference categories, and predictions for FY2012 and beyond with Charlie Oppenheim of the Visa Office. Here are notes from that discussion:

    2012 and 2013 News
    • In October 2012 (beginning of the 2013 fiscal year), the EB-2 cut-off dates for China-Mainland born and India, which are currently “unavailable,” will move to August or September 2007 (China may be slightly better). It is unlikely that the cut-off dates will move forward at all for the first two quarters of FY2013. If they do, it will only be if the Visa Office is convinced that there is insufficient demand for the rest of the year. Mr. Oppenheim’s office already has 17,000 EB-2 cases for natives of India, China, and worldwide with priority dates after January 1, 2009, pre-adjudicated. There will be a lot of cases queued up for adjudication in October 2012, and it will take some time to get through them.
    • EB-2 worldwide will be current in October 2012.
    • If USCIS approves many pending cases during the month of June, the worldwide EB-2 category may retrogress or become unavailable for the rest of the year.
    • Why did the priority dates move ahead so far and then retrogress so drastically? USCIS encouraged Mr. Oppenheim’s office to move the categories forward so much in January, February, and March of 2012. USCIS reported that they had a lot of approved petitions but they were not receiving enough I-485s. USCIS wanted the cut-off dates moved even more in March 2012, but DOS resisted, since there already appeared to be heavy demand. In February, the demand had already increased 50%. In addition, USCIS said that they believed that adjudication of EB-1 cases would be at the same rate as last fiscal year, and this was not the case. It could be due to the fact that many EB-1 cases had very long adjudication times with USCIS. In addition, EB-5 usage has been higher this year. Unused EB-5 cases fall into EB-1, and unused EB-1 cases fall into EB-2.
    • Applicants from China and India who filed will be waiting years for adjudication of their I-485s.
    • USCIS also advised a 4-6 month timeline in the processing of I-485s, and then they processed a lot of cases in 3 months, which increased the demand as well for visa numbers this fiscal year.
    • The group of cases that were filed in July and August of 2007, when all employment-based categories were made “current,” were all completed by November 2011, and at that point, Mr. Oppenheim’s office had to depend on USCIS estimates for adjudication of cases. Mr. Oppenheim’s office had no pre-adjudicated cases that gave him a point of reference to determine what was left or pending.
    • Mr. Oppenheim’s office has been very clear that they do not like retrogression.
    Going forward:

    Another problem with trying to predict the demand is that no one is keeping statistics on EB-3-EB-2 “upgrades.” Upgrades continue to be a big “wildcard,” as no one knows how many are being used per year and no one is tracking it. Mr. Oppenheim confirmed his previous comments that both cases for a person remain open (so it looks like two numbers are being used) if a person is upgrading from EB-3 to EB-2, and only when the green card is approved does the duplicate file number go away. At that time, Mr. Oppenheim’s office is told by USCIS to cancel a pending EB-3 case.

    Mr. Oppenheim’s office believes that there are 10,000 to 15,000 numbers used for upgrades every fiscal year. In March 2012, alone, 3,200 numbers were used to approve China and India adjustments that were EB-3-EB-2 upgrades. The actual break down was 2,800 from India and 500 from China. All of these cases had priority dates before 2007, so clearly, they were upgrades. For example, 363 of the 2,800 EB-2 cases from India that were approved in March 2012, had a 2005 priority date. In March 2012, alone, over 1,000 numbers were used for applications from the worldwide quota that had priority dates before 2010, so these were likely upgrades as well.

    USCIS previously insisted that the number of upgrade cases was insignificant.

    Mr. Oppenheim’s office tries to use 13,500 visas per quarter for all EB cases. This office already has more than 17,000 in line for FY2013.


    On Thursday, January 19, 2012, Business committee chair Mike Nowlan and Students & Scholars committee member, Roberta Freedman, discussed the Visa Bulletin, visa demand in the employment preference categories, and predictions for FY2012 with Charlie Oppenheim of the Visa Office. Notes from that 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 AILA 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 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.
    Orginally published on watsonimmigration.wordpress.com. Reprinted with permission


    About The Author

    Tahmina Watson is an immigration attorney and founder of Watson Immigration Law in Seattle Washington. She was a practicing barrister in London, UK, before immigrating to the United States herself. While her practice includes family-based and employment-based immigration, she has a strong focus on immigrant entrepreneurs and start-up companies. She can be contacted at tahmina@watsonimmigrationlaw.com. You can visit www.watsonimmigrationlaw.com to learn about Tahmina and her practice.


    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.
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