The U.S. Department of State (DOS) Visa Bulletin provides vital information to those seeking to file an immigrant visa petition.
Each month, a bulletin is made available to the public via the Travel.State.Gov website. It summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers during that month for “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications.” This serves as an indicator of when immigrant visa applicants should assemble and submit required documentation to the National Visa Center (NVC).
To make sense of this visa bulletin, the DOS has started a new monthly program on YouTube. The live stream allows Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, to share his take on the state of the visa numbers for the upcoming month.
The most recent live stream (from May 24, 2021) provides an insight into the June Visa Bulletin:
Below are some of the questions and answers from this visa bulletin live stream.
Q: Do you expect that the fiscal year 2021 family-sponsored and employment-based annual limits will be reached?
A: No, processing at overseas posts has resumed in recent months but not at normal processing levels.
Q: What do you expect that the fiscal year 2022 family-sponsored and employment-based annual limits will be?
A: The family-sponsored limit has been 226,000 (since FY2000), while the employment-based annual limit is expected to be at least 290,000 for FY2022.
Q: Do you expect that the China and the India employment second-preference dates will continue to advance?
A: Yes, they will continue to advance, with exception of EB5 for China. All others will move aggressively.
Q: Do you expect that the worldwide family preference dates will continue to advance through September as well?
A: Originally, movement of family-sponsored dates was expected to slow or stop but based on changing conditions at overseas posts allowing additional numbers to be used, will continue advancing dates through the summer.
Q: Which countries typically use the majority of the employment-based visa numbers?
A: China and India because those applicants have earliest priority dates. In addition, unused numbers are given to those with earliest priority dates, which are primarily India EB2 and EB3 preference categories.
Q: How are the final action dates determined for each month?
A: Several variables are involved including preference category annual limits and overall country limits. The agency considers how many numbers have already been used, how many additional numbers will be used during the current month, and the amount of known demand based on the movement of final action dates for the upcoming month.
Q: Does USCIS share information with DOS regarding the amount of cases they have in various stages of processing?
A: Yes, USCIS ombudsman’s office hosts a monthly meeting at which DOS, USCIS, and other agencies discuss what the number situation is. At the beginning of each month, USCIS also provides a detailed report of the demand for numbers in various categories.
Q: At what point is a number allocated for use by an applicant based on the determination of the monthly final action dates?
A: If an applicant is reported to DOS as “documentarily qualified” (submitted all the required docs normally required at a visa interview AND the priority date is within the newly announced final action date) then numbers are immediately allocated for potential final action on their case.
Q: Do you expect any of the final action dates to be retrogressed?
A: No, do not expect any of the family-sponsored or employment-based final action dates to be retrogressed.
Q: Do you expect any of the Diversity Visa 2021 rank cutoffs to be retrogressed?
A: No, all of the DV rank cutoffs will remain current through the end of the DV 2021 program.
Q: Do you anticipate EB2 and EB3 with September 2011 priority date will retrogress in fiscal year 2022?
A: No, do not believe that will happen. With the anticipated high limit for FY2022 (290,000) can assume all employment-based dates will be aggressively advanced. Depending on new applications, advancement may slow down or be held during second half of FY2022.
Q: How much movement will we see with EB3 in the July bulletin?
A: It will be very aggressive. Safe to say most if not all application filing dates listed (except China EB5) will be reached by the end of the year. Expect very aggressive movement of employment-based dates for the month of July.
Q: What about F4 that retrogressed in FY 2020?
A: Family four (F4) preference never reached 2021, because in FY 2019 the response rate by applicants requested to submit required documentation was very low, so the F4 preference date advanced rapidly to maximize the number use. Then after the response rate picked up, F4 retrogressed due to the insufficient number of available visa numbers. We are slowly recovering from this retrogression.
Q: When can we expect March 2016 EB3 to be current?
A: Worldwide EB3 preference is current, China EB3 is in 2018, and India EB3 is in 2011. India EB3 will advance to 2012 in the near future, beyond that we will need to keep an eye on incoming demand.
Q: Shouldn’t the “spillover” go to India since it is the most backlogged?
A: No. The “spillover” is estimated to be 150,000 family-sponsored unused visa numbers, which will be added to the 240,000 employment-based annual limit, resulting in the projected 290,000 employment-based visa numbers. As per the INA, EB1, EB2, and EB3 preference categories are delegated 28.6% of the annual limit, while EB4 and EB5 get 7.1% of the annual limits. In addition, the per country annual limit is 7%. The intent is to prevent a handful of countries from monopolizing all the available numbers giving an equal chance to applicants from around the world. Then, if there are any unused numbers, they are provided to countries with the earliest priority dates.
Q: Do you believe India EB3 from 2013 will be current in 2022?
A: Yes, refer to application filing dates listed in the June Visa Bulletin.
Charles Oppenheim also clarified that “aggressive movement” means movements of 3 to 8 months at a time.
There are more questions and answers provided in the full video on the U.S. Department of State YouTube channel.
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