Certain Immigrant Categories Delayed Beginning in August, Likely to Return to Normal in October

The U.S. Department of State has published the monthly “Visa Bulletin” for August 2016. The Visa Bulletin is a government publication, the primary purpose of which is to provide an updated waiting list for immigrants that are subject to the quota system. Usually, the “cut-off” dates on the Visa Bulletin move forward in time, but not always. Applicants with petitions or Labor Certifications filed on or after the “cut-off” date under a particular category are not eligible to obtain an immigrant visa or to adjust status until the cut-off date has passed the petition or Labor Certification filing date (referred to as the “priority date”). Demand for visa numbers by applicants with a variety of priority dates can fluctuate from one month to another, with an inevitable impact on cut-off dates. Such fluctuations can cause cut-off date movement to slow, stop or even retrogress. Visa retrogression occurs when more people apply for a visa in a particular category or country than there are visas available for that month. Retrogression typically occurs toward the end of the Fiscal Year as visa issuance approaches the annual category or per-country limitations. Sometimes a priority date that meets the cut-off date one month will not meet the cut-off date the next month. When the new Fiscal Year begins on October 1, a new supply of visas is made available and usually, but not always, returns the dates to where they were before retrogression.

The August 2016 Visa Bulletin shows slight forward movement in many categories, with some exceptions. According to the Visa Bulletin, beginning on August 1, 2016, the final action cut-off dates have moved back (“retrogressed”) to January 1, 2010, for the EB-1 category for nationals of India and China. The EB-1 category includes the following classifications: (1) aliens of extraordinary ability, (2) outstanding professors or researchers, and (3) multinational managers and executives. The Visa Bulletin also establishes cut-off dates of February 1, 2014, for the Worldwide EB-2 category, beginning on August 1, 2016, due to a spike in demand under this classification. The EB-2 category includes: (1) members of the professions holding advanced degrees, and (2) persons of exceptional ability.

Beginning August 1, 2016, individuals who have a priority date on or after the cut-off dates, will be unable to adjust status or obtain an immigrant visa until the visa numbers are available once again. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) Visa Control and Reporting Division Chief, Charles Oppenheim, has confirmed that the above categories are expected to advance again in the October Visa Bulletin effective October 1, 2016, which will be the first day of Fiscal Year 2017.

The Visa Bulletin also lists cut-off dates for the employment-based fourth preference and certain religious workers preference categories for India, as India has reached its congressionally mandated EB-4 visa limit for Fiscal Year 2016. Starting on August 1, 2016, applicants from India who have a priority date under these categories on or after January 1, 2010, will not be able to obtain an immigrant visa or adjust status until new visas become available in October 2016.

Individuals with pending or approved petitions who are subject to annual immigrant number limitations should monitor the Visa Bulletin closely.

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