The Department of State (“DOS”) Visa Office has released the September Visa Bulletin. As mentioned in our previous alert, the August bulletin announced that final action cut-off dates had been imposed for EB-1 China and India and for EB-2 Worldwide, Mexico, and Philippines due to extremely high demand in recent months. The degree of backlog is severe, with EB-1 (China and India) retrogressing approximately 6.5 years and EB-2 (Worldwide, Mexico, and Philippines) retrogressing approximately 2.5 years. The September bulletin confirmed this retrogression, with no change to the impacted categories. However, DOS has confirmed that the retrogression will be temporary. The categories will return to “current” in October once the new immigrant visa annual limits take effect for the 2017 fiscal year. The September bulletin also announced significant forward movement for EB-3 Philippines, as well as slight forward movement for EB-2 India and for EB-3 Worldwide, India, and Mexico.
Unless otherwise indicated on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) website, applicants must use the Application Final Action Dates chart for determining when they can file their adjustment applications during the month of August. The USCIS has indicated that the Application Final Action Dates must be used the month of September.
Application Filing Dates (when an immigrant visa or adjustment of status application can be filed). Foreign nationals with priority dates earlier than the dates for filing visa applications indicated in the Visa Bulletin chart below, or where noted as “C” for “current,” may file an immigrant visa application through the Department of State consular service (“consular processing”) during the applicable month. Such persons may also apply for adjustment of status (“I-485 application”) through USCIS in the United States, provided that USCIS has indicated on its website that the cut-off dates indicated on the Application Filing Date chart may be used for adjustment filings during the applicable month. If USCIS does not indicate that the Application Filing Date chart may be used for adjustment filings, the adjustment application must be filed based on the Final Action Date chart (see below).
Application Final Action Dates (when an immigrant visa or adjustment of status application can be approved). Foreign nationals with priority dates earlier than the final action dates indicated in the Visa Bulletin chart below, or where noted as “C” for “current,” may be approved for an adjustment of status application (I-485) or immigrant visa during the applicable month. The Final Action Dates Chart also determines when an adjustment of status application may be filed, unless USCIS indicates that the earlier Application Filing cut-off dates may be used to determine when the adjustment may be filed for that particular month.
Application Final Action Dates for September 2016*:
Application Filing Dates for September 2016*:
* We have omitted the information for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as the 4th and 5th Preference Categories from these charts. To view the full bulletin, please visit the Department of State Visa Bulletin page.
How Immigrant Visa Quotas and the Visa Bulletin Work
The Immigration and Nationality Act limits the number of employment-based immigrant visas that may be issued each year to a worldwide level of 140,000. The Act also allocates this limited number of visas based on preference category and country of birth, such that each country is subject to an individual per-country quota, in addition to the overall worldwide quota. For foreign nationals who are being sponsored by their employers for a green card, the most common preference categories are: the employment-based first preference category (EB-1), which is reserved for aliens of extraordinary ability, outstanding researchers, and multinational managers; the employment-based second preference category (EB-2), which is reserved for advanced degree holders  and aliens of exceptional ability; and the employment-based third preference category (EB-3) which is designated for professionals, skilled workers and “other” workers.