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I-485 Articles

January 2015 Visa Bulletin – EB-3 Continues to Advance Significantly; EB-2 India Unchanged

The U.S. State Department has just released the January 2015 Visa Bulletin which is the fourth Visa Bulletin for the FY2015 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the continued forward movement in the EB-3 preference category.

Summary of the January 2015 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based (EB)

Below is a summary of the January 2015 Visa Bulletin with respect to the employment-based categories:

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India remains unchanged at February 15, 2005 after the major retrogression from a couple of months ago.    EB-2 China moves forward by one (1) month to February 1, 2010.
  • EB-3 ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by seven (7) months to June 1, 2013.   EB-3 China advances by nine (9) months to March 1, 2011 while EB-3 India  advances by only two (2) weeks to December 15, 2003.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by seven (7) months to June 1, 2013.   EB-3 China remains unchanged at July 22, 2005 while EB-3 India  advances by only two (2) weeks to December 15, 2003.

Summary of the January 2015 Visa Bulletin – Family-Based (FB)

Below is a summary of the January 2015 Visa Bulletin with respect to some family-based categories:

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by two (2) weeks to July 8, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by one (1) month to September 15, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by one (1) week to December 22, 2004.
  • FB-2A moves forward again  – it moves forward by three (3) weeks to April 15, 2013 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It also moves forward by seven (7) weeks to February 22, 2013  for Mexico.

EB-2 India Retrogression Expected to Remain Through Summer of 2015

As expected, EB-2 India remains unchanged at the (severely retrogressed) February 15, 2005 date.    Unfortunately, no movement in EB-2 India is expected over the next several months with a possible forward movement towards the summer of 2015.

EB-3 Continues to Move Forward Significantly

The most important development in the January 2015 Visa Bulletin is the continued notable forward movement in the EB-3 categories.    Most of the EB-3 categories have advanced by seven months, with EB-3 China moving forward by nine months, on top of the significant forward movement in the past few visa bulletins. This should be welcome news to many EB-3 applicants (except EB-3 India where the forward movement is only of two weeks) who may be eligible for I-485 filings or processing of their immigrant visas at the U.S. Consulates abroad.    We are happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application to those EB-3 applicants (and other) who are seeing an advancing and current (or soon to be current) priority date.

Current Priority Date?

Our office stands ready to assist in the applicable process to take advantage of a current (or close to current) priority date.   Those applicants whose priority dates are current as of the January 2015 Visa Bulletin may be eligible to process their (and their family members’) I-485 Adjustment of Status applications from within the U.S. or process their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can help you take advantage of this (very time-sensitive for some) opportunity to file I-485 applications.    We are also happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application.

Further Updates and News

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about the January 2015 Visa Bulletin.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

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Breaking News: EB-2 India Unavailable for Rest of September; Major Retrogression in EB-2 India Coming in the Fall

Mr. Charles Oppenheim, the Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State, just announced in a meeting in which our office participated that due to extraordinarily high volume of EB-2 India cases, the Department of State will make the EB-2 India category unavailable until the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2014) effective immediately as of today, September 10, 2014.  It is important to note that this announcement does not affect the October 2014 Visa Bulletin, which has EB-2 India with a cutoff date of May 1, 2009 and which will be effective as of October 1, 2014.

Making a category unavailable is an emergency measure and is caused, in this instance, by the high volume of EB-2 India filings (and approvals), combined with the fact that the available visa numbers for the fiscal year have been or will be reached immediately.   While it is not unusual for the available visa numbers for a fiscal year to be reached at some time in September (because the fiscal year ends at the end of September and because the Department of State is trying to make sure that all visa numbers are used before the end of the fiscal year or be lost),  making a visa category unavailable with an immediate effect is a rare move.

No or Few EB-2 India Approvals Expected for the Rest of September

The fact that the EB-2 India has been made “unavailable” and that there are no more visa numbers available in this category means that we should not expect any further EB-2 India approvals in September.      There may be few approvals, nonetheless.  The reason is that an immigration officer may have already requested and received an authorization for a visa number for a pending I-485 case and as long as this visa number has been already allocated, an approval of an I-485 application may come even after this announcement.

When the new fiscal year starts on October 1, the annual visa numbers reset and we should continue to see adjudications and approvals for pending I-485 applications with current priority dates.

No EB-2 India Filings for the Remainder of September

The fact that EB-2 India is unavailable for September also means that no new EB-2 India I-485 filings will be accepted and processed during the rest of the month.    This includes I-485 filings for dependents and I-485 interfiling requests (usually after I-140 porting applications).   Cases that are filed are either likely to be held for processing on October 1st or will be returned to the applicant.

Update 9/11/2014.  Based on recent experience when DOS made EB-5 China “unavailable”,  USCIS is likely to continue accepting I-485 filings but those cases will be held in the Visa Office’s “Pending Demand” file until October 1, 2014.   At that time, all eligible cases will be automatically authorized from the “Pending Demand” file under the FY-2015 annual numerical limitation.

EB-2 India Major Retrogression Upcoming

Mr. Oppenheim also confirmed that a major retrogression for EB-2 India is expected in November or December.    According to Mr. Oppenheim, EB-2 India is likely to retrogress possibly all the way back to 2005.   On a longer term note, EB-2 India is likely to move forward extremely slowly and EB-2 India candidates should prepare for a long wait under the current visa allocation system and given the current high levels of demand.

Conclusion

The folks most affected by this breaking announcement will be EB-2 India applicants who were planning to file their (or their family members’) I-485 applications in the month of September.   These candidates may now have to wait until still be able to file their I-485 applications but such applications may be held until October 1st.    Also, EB-2 India applicants with pending I-485 applications and a current priority date will likely have to wait until October 1st, at least, to get some good news.

We will provide updates on this piece of breaking news and related topics.    Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can review your case, answer any questions or schedule a consultation.   We also invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

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October 2014 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India Unchanged with Imminent Retrogression

The U.S. State Department has just released the October 2014 Visa Bulletin which is the first Visa Bulletin for the FY2015 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the lack of movement in EB-2 and the expectation of an imminent retrogression in this category.    EB-3 advances nicely for everyone except EB-3 India.   FB-2A also advances slightly.

Summary of the October 2014 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based (EB)

Below is a summary of the October 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to the employment-based categories:

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India remains unchanged at May 1, 2009.  EB-2 China moves forward by five (5) weeks to November 15, 2009.
  • EB-3 ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by six (6) months to October 1, 2011.   EB-3 China advances by five (5) moths to April 1, 2009 while EB-3 India  advances by only one (1) week to November 15, 2003.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by six (6) months to October 1, 2011.   EB-3 China remains unchanged at July 22, 2005 while EB-3 India  advances by only one (1) week to November 15, 2003.

Summary of the October 2014 Visa Bulletin – Family-Based (FB)

Below is a summary of the October 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to family-based categories:

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by three (3) weeks to May 22, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by three (3) weeks to June 22, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by one (1) month to September 1, 2004.
  • FB-2A moves forward again (after a period of retrogression and no movement) – it moves forward significantly by one (1) month to February 1, 2013 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It also moves forward by three (3) months to July 22, 2012 for Mexico.

EB-2 India No Change This Month; Retrogression Coming in November

After the significant forward movement over the past few months in EB-2 India, this month’s Visa Bulletin suggests that the trends is about to reverse.    The fact that there is no movement in EB-2 India, combined with the Visa Bulletin note that a retrogression in this category is imminent confirms 0ur expectation that the high rate of recent I-485 filings and I-485 approvals are creating sufficient demand in EB-2 India to force the Department of State to move the cutoff dates backwards.

Over the past few months there has been increasing buildup in the amount of applications waiting for a movement in the EB-2 India category and our office had expected some movement to occur towards the end of the fiscal year.     Our office has been increasingly busy with new I-485 filings (for those who are becoming current this or next month) or for handling I-485 requests for evidence (for those who had pending I-485 applications but had expired medicals).

There are still many EB-2 India applicants who are current as of September and October 2014 and who have not filed (or interfiled) their or their dependents’ I-485 applications.   We urge all of these applicants to consider filing I-485 over the next few months and before the expected retrogression in EB-2 India.

Current Priority Date?

Our office stands ready to assist in the applicable process to take advantage of a current (or close to current) priority date.   Those applicants whose priority dates are current as of the October 2014 Visa Bulletin may be eligible to process their (and their family members’) I-485 Adjustment of Status applications from within the U.S. or process their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.      Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can help you take advantage of this (very time-sensitive for some) opportunity to file I-485 applications.    We are also happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application.

Further Updates and News

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about the October 2014 Visa Bulletin.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

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August 2014 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India Moves Forward by Four Months; EB-3 ROW and FB-2A Remain Unchanged

The U.S. State Department has just released the August 2014 Visa Bulletin which is the eleventh Visa Bulletin for the FY2014 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the significant (four month) forward movement in EB-2 India, the significant (two years) forward movement in EB-3 China and the lack of any movement in EB-3 ROW and FB-2A.

Summary of the August 2014 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based (EB)

Below is a summary of the August 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to the employment-based categories:

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India advances by almost five (5) months to January 22, 2009.  EB-2 China moves forward by three  (3) months to October 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 ROW and Mexico remain unchanged at April 1, 2011.  EB-3 China advances by over two (2) years to November 1, 2008.   EB-3 Philippines advances by one and a half (1.5) years to June 1, 2010, while EB-3 India  moves forward by only one (1) week to November 8, 2003.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW and Mexico remain unchanged at April 1, 2011.  EB-3 China advances by one and a half (1.5) years to July 22, 2005.   EB-3 Philippines advances by one and a half (1.5) years to June 1, 2010, while EB-3 India  moves forward by only one (1) week to November 8, 2003.

Summary of the August 2014 Visa Bulletin – Family-Based (FB)

Below is a summary of the August 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to family-based categories:

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by three (3) weeks to April 22, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by two (2) months to April 8, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by one and a half (1.5) years to June 1, 2004.
  • FB-2A remains unchanged for all (after a significant retrogression two months ago) – it remains at May 1, 2012 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It remains at March 15, 2011 for Mexico.

EB-2 India Another Significant Forward Movement

After last month’s significant (four years) movement in EB-2 India, this month’s Visa Bulletin brings another welcome (and somewhat expected) piece of news for EB-2 India applicants.     Even though this month’s movement is of about four months, to January 22, 2009, it still allows many EB-2 India applicants to file their I-485 applications.     Over the past few months there has been increasing buildup in the amount of applications waiting for a movement in the EB-2 India category and our office had expected some movement to occur towards the end of the fiscal year.     Our office has been increasingly busy with new I-485 filings (for those who are becoming current this or next month) or for handling I-485 requests for evidence (for those who had pending I-485 applications but had expired medicals).   The four-year forward movement in EB-2 India last month, followed by this month’s Visa Bulletin’s four month forward movement, is done by the U.S. Department of State to allow the government to process a number of pending I-485 applications in order to utilize all of the available visa numbers for the fiscal year (to end on September 30).    We see a number of approvals and expect more approvals on many I-485 cases (which have cleared their RFEs, for some, due to medical exam expiration).

Since many EB-2 India applicants have also ported their EB-3 priority date into EB-2, there will be a significant number of EB-2 India nationals who would have their newly-ported EB-2 priority date become current and who would be eligible to file I-485 adjustment of status applications (together with eligible family members).

In a note found in the Visa Bulletin, the Department of State warns that heavy demand (number of filings) in EB-2 India is likely to cause significant retrogression over the next few months.  Our office continues to see significant number of new I-485 filings under this category so we caution that a retrogression in EB-2 India is possible over the next several months.

Current Priority Date?

Our office stands ready to assist in the applicable process to take advantage of a current (or close to current) priority date.   Those applicants whose priority dates are current as of the August 2014 Visa Bulletin may be eligible to process their (and their family members’) I-485 Adjustment of Status applications from within the U.S. or process their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.      Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can help you take advantage of this (very time-sensitive for some) opportunity to file I-485 applications.    We are also happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application.

Further Updates and News

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about the August 2014 Visa Bulletin.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

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July 2014 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India Moves Forward by Four Years; FB-2A Remains Unchanged

The U.S. State Department has just released the July 2014 Visa Bulletin which is the tenth Visa Bulletin for the FY2014 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the significant (four years) forward movement in EB-2 India and the lack of any movement in FB-2A.

Summary of the July 2014 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based (EB)

Below is a summary of the July 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to the employment-based categories:

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India advances significantly by almost four (4) years to September 1, 2008.  EB-2 China moves forward by five (5) weeks to July 1, 2009.
  • EB-3 ROW, China and Mexico remain unchanged.  EB-3 ROW and Mexico are at April 1, 2011 while EB-3 China remains unchanged at October 1, 2006.   EB-3 Philippines advances by one (1) year to January 1, 2009, while EB-3 India  moves forward by only two (2) weeks to November 1, 2003.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW, China and Mexico also remain unchanged.  ROW and Mexico are at April 1, 2011 while China remains unchanged at January 1, 2003.    Philippines advances by one (1) year to January 1, 2009, while India  moves forward by only two (2) weeks to November 1, 2003.

Summary of the July 2014 Visa Bulletin – Family-Based (FB)

Below is a summary of the July 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to family-based categories:

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by one (1) week to April 1, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by six (6) weeks to February 1, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by six (6) months to January 1, 2003.
  • FB-2A remains unchanged for all (after a significant retrogression last month) – it remains at May 1, 2012 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It remains at March 15, 2011 for Mexico.

EB-2 India Significant Forward Movement

Finally, this month’s Visa Bulletin brings some welcome (and somewhat expected) news for EB-2 India applicants.     Over the past few months there has been increasing buildup in the amount of applications waiting for a movement in the EB-2 India category and our office has expected some movement to occur towards the end of the fiscal year.     The four-year forward movement in EB-2 India is done to allow the government to process a number of pending I-485 applications in order to utilize all of the available visa numbers for the fiscal year (to end on September 30).    We expect approvals on many I-485 cases (which have cleared their RFEs, for some, due to medical exam expiration).

Since many EB-2 India applicants have also ported their EB-3 priority date into EB-2, there will be a significant number of EB-2 India nationals who would have their newly-ported EB-2 priority date become current and who would be eligible to file I-485 adjustment of status applications (together with eligible family members).

Current Priority Date?

Our office stands ready to assist in the applicable process to take advantage of a current (or close to current) priority date.   Those applicants whose priority dates are current as of the July 2014 Visa Bulletin may be eligible to process their (and their family members’) I-485 Adjustment of Status applications from within the U.S. or process their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.      Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can help you take advantage of this (very time-sensitive for some) opportunity to file I-485 applications.    We are also happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application.

Further Updates and News

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about the July 2014 Visa Bulletin.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

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USCIS Revised Policy Regarding I-693 Medical Exam Validity – Restricts Validity to One Year

USCIS has announced a change in their policy regarding the validity period of a Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, when filed in support of a Form I-485 Adjustment of Status Application.   Effective June 1, 2014, the I-693 medical report will be valid for one year from the date of submission to USCIS.   This is in addition to the requirement that the I-485 applicant must submit the I-693  medical exam within one year of the actual medical exam date.

Background and Reasons for the Change of Policy

Before 2002, USCIS considered a Form I-693 medical exam valid as long as it was filed within one year of the civil surgeon’s signature.   Since 2002, USCIS has kept this practice and has continuously extended the validity of the civil surgeon’s endorsement on the I-693 medical exam.   As a result, timely-filed Form I-693 medical exam documents were automatically considered extended and “current” by USCIS.

After consultations with the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), USCIS has decided to change the policy regarding the validity of I-693 medical exams and to effectively discontinue the automatic validity extension policy.   While we do not know the specific reasons for the policy change and any concerns raised by CDC, a possible reason may be the fact that under the prior automatic extension policy, there may have been applicants who have been waiting for I-485 adjudication for 3, 5, 7 or even more years and for those applicants the I-693 medical exam report on file simply does not provide an accurate picture of their health (and any health risks they may pose).

Policy Change Related to Increased Number of I-485 Requests for Evidence

This policy change is directly related to the increased number of recent requests for evidence (RFEs) on pending I-485 applications, especially for cases where the priority date is expected to be current over the next months.     As we reported in our recent article, our office sees an increased number of RFEs which specifically request renewed I-693 medical exam report to be submitted back to USCIS.     It seems that USCIS is using the need of a new I-693 medical exam report to also request additional items in their RFEs, such as employment verification documents.

Conclusion

It is helpful to see that USCIS has formulated a policy and a formal explanation to the medical exam validity period.    This policy change helps explain the wave of recent (and upcoming) RFEs.   We recommend that I-485 applicants who have had their I-485 pending for more than year to be prepared to respond to an RFE for medical exams, among other related items.    This includes updating their mailing address with USCIS and ensuring that their attorney of record information on the I-485 is current.

Please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics. If our office can be of any help, please feel free to contact us.

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USCIS Issues a Flood of RFEs on Pending I-485 Applications

Many of our clients and readers are already aware of the move by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) to issue what are hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of very similar, if not identical, requests for evidence (“RFE”) on pending employment-based primary Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, cases.    Our office has been receiving such RFEs and we have been hearing from readers and clients who have also been affected by this large-scale RFE event.    Unlike the similar mass-RFE event from June 2013, this time the RFEs seem to be more accurately drafted, do not include dependents and include request for renewed Form I-693 medical exam documents.

Similar or Identical I-485 RFEs

It appears that the majority (if not all) of these RFEs were issued by the Texas Service Center and most appear to be for EB-2 India applicants.    In terms of substance, the RFEs appear to be almost identical and seek information and clarification on a few points – (1) evidence of continuous employment authorization in the U.S. from the date the I-485 application was filed to the date of the RFE; (2) a current (and original) employment verification letter from the original sponsoring employer or, in cases of AC21 porting to a new employer, from the new employer; and (3) request for updated I-693 medical exam form.

Maintaining Employment Authorization

The RFE requests proof of employment authorization starting from the date the I-485 was filed until the present.   For many people this evidence would include copies of Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) or H-1B (or other employment-authorized status) approval notices/Form I-94 cards.   In many instances, I-485 applicants continue to maintain their H-1B status even after they file I-485 (and obtain EAD) or even after they switch an employer pursuant to AC21.    In other cases, I-485 applicants simply drop their H-1B and continue employment pursuant to a valid and uninterrupted EAD.

With this RFE, USCIS is trying to determine whether I-485 applicants may have been employed without authorization during the time the I-485 has been pending.   The significance is that in those cases where the I-485 applicant is deemed to have been employed without authorization (or without status) for more than 180 days since the last entry into the U.S., the government may deny the I-485 application under section 245(c).    Please see our article on this bar to adjustment and the section 245(k) defense.

As a result, special attention should be paid to ensuring that complete employment authorization history is provided.  If there are any gaps, we urge extreme caution.

Original Employment Verification Letter

The RFE also asks for an original employment verification letter (“EVL”) from the original (if no job change) or a new (if jobs changed pursuant to AC21) employer.   The EVL should be in original, on employer letterhead, and should confirm that the job offer described in the I-140 petition exists (for sponsoring employers).   In situations where the I-485 applicant has ported their I-485 to a new employer (or to the same employer but on a different position) pursuant to AC21, the RFE seeks an EVL from the new employer confirming that the new position is same or similar to the position noted in the I-140 petition.

As mentioned above, the EVL should be in original, currently-dated, describe the title and duties of the position, the salary, the minimum educational or training requirements, and the date the employment began (or will begin).

Updated I-693 Medical Exams

Finally, the RFEs are seeking an updated set of I-693 medical exam forms, completed by a designated Civil Surgeon, and in a sealed envelope.   The reason the medical exams are included in this set of RFEs is that USCIS not automatically renew the validity of the I-693 medical exams this year and, as a result, a number (or all) relevant I-693 medical exam forms expired because they were valid for only one year.

As a background, USCIS had a policy of automatically renewing the validity of timely-filed I-693 medical exams.  However, as of this year, USCIS did not renew this policy, resulting in a number of I-693 medical exams expiring.   As a result, USCIS is seeking a new Form I-693 as part of this RFE wave.

Attorney Assistance with Preparing RFE Response

Our office will be happy to provide consultations or assistance with responding to this (or other) kind of RFE.    If you would like to schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss a specific case (but perhaps without engaging us to help with the RFE filing), we offer phone consultations.

We are also happy and available to assist with a more comprehensive RFE response representation.   Please feel free to complete this RFE inquiry form and we will be happy to provide thoughts and, if applicable, a quote for our legal assistance.

Conclusion

There is much speculation as to what is the USCIS intent in generating so many RFEs in such a short period of time without, in many cases, careful consideration of the facts of a specific case.    We will not speculate since and we do not yet have an official position from USCIS.    For many applicants, however, who may expect to see their priority become current over the next two to three months (see our expectations for forward movement in EB-2 India in the next few months), responding to this kind of an RFE becomes very time-sensitive in order to have a complete case ready for approval once the priority date becomes current.

Please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics. If our office can be of any help, please feel free to contact us.

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June 2014 Visa Bulletin – EB-3 ROW/China and FB-2A Major Retrogression; EB-2 India Remains Unchanged

The U.S. State Department has just released the June 2014 Visa Bulletin which is the ninth Visa Bulletin for the FY2014 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the significant retrogression in EB-3 ROW and China, the significant retrogression in FB-2A and the lack of movement in EB-2 India.

Summary of the June 2014 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based (EB)

Below is a summary of the June 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to the employment-based categories:

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India remains unchanged (again!) at November 15, 2004 but some forward movement is expected over the remaining few months of the fiscal year.  EB-2 China moves forward by five (5) weeks to May 22, 2009.
  • EB-3 ROW, China and Mexico retrogress significantly – EB-3 ROW and EB-3 Mexico move back by 18 months to April 1, 2011 while EB-3 China moves back by six (6) years (!) to October 1, 2006.    EB-3 Philippines moves forward by two (2) months to January 1, 2008, while EB-3 India  moves forward by only two (2) weeks to October 15, 2003.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW, China and Mexico also retrogress significantly – EB-3 ROW and EB-3 Mexico move back by 18 months to April 1, 2011 while EB-3 China moves back by nine  (9) years (!) to October 1, 2003.    EB-3 Philippines moves forward by two (2) months to January 1, 2008, while EB-3 India  moves forward by only two (2) weeks to October 15, 2003.

Summary of the June 2014 Visa Bulletin – Family-Based (FB)

Below is a summary of the June 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to family-based categories:

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by two (2) weeks to March 22, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by one (1) month to December 15, 1993 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by four (4) months to June 1, 2002.
  • FB-2A retrogresses significantly for all everyone – it moves back by fifteen (15) months to May 1, 2012 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It also moves back by thirteen (13) months to March 15, 2011 for Mexico.

EB-2 India Remains Unchanged  – But Some Forward Movement Expected Soon

Unfortunately, no news for EB-2 India means continued disappointment in the lack of movement in this category.   The reason for this lack of movement has been the significant demand and pending cases at USCIS.  However, as we reported a week ago, Mr. Oppenheim’s Visa Office at the Department of State plans to move EB-2 India forward by the end of the fiscal year to around January 1, 2008.

EB-3 ROW/China Retrogress Significantly

Another unfortunate development in this month’s Visa Bulletin is the retrogression in EB-3 ROW, Mexico and China.    EB-3 ROW and Mexico retrogress by 18 months while EB-3 China moves back by six years.

Over the past few months we have been seeing in our practice and reporting in our updates of an increase rate of filings (I-485/NVC) in these categories and the upcoming retrogression is an indication that USCIS have enough cases to distribute the annual number of green cards.    This sharp and major slowdown in EB-3 ROW/China is in line with our expectations.    We urge all EB-3 ROW, Mexico or China applicants who have not filed their I-485 applications to do so immediately and by the end of the month (contact us if we can help).

Perhaps a tiny glimmer of light in this, otherwise gloomy Visa Bulletin, is the presence of (a small) forward movement in EB-3 India.

EB-3 China Sharp Retrogression vs. EB-2 China Forward Movement

Over the past several months our office has handled many inquiries from Chinese nationals who are EB-2 applicants and who have considered or have actually refiled their cases under EB-3 in the expectation that EB-3 China would be a faster way to get a green card.

While we have been able to secure an I-485 filing for a number of EB-2 to EB-3 China “downgraders”, we have been urging many EB-2 China applicants to stay under EB-2 because of our expectation that, ultimately, an EB-2 China green card will be approved faster.   This month’s six-year retrogression in EB-3 China confirms our recommendations that an EB-2 China green card will take less time, on average, than EB-3 China filing.

FB-2A Retrogresses

Another notable (and unfortunate) development is the somewhat significant retrogression in the FB-2A categories.    The demand in this category has been high over the past months and, as a result, the dates have been moved back to “slow” down the rate of new filings in this category.

Current Priority Date?

Our office stands ready to assist in the applicable process to take advantage of a current (or close to current) priority date.   Those applicants whose priority dates are current as of the June 2014 Visa Bulletin may be eligible to process their (and their family members’) I-485 Adjustment of Status applications from within the U.S. or process their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.      This is even more important for those applicants who are current as of the May 2014 Visa Bulletin but will not be current any longer under the June 2014 Visa Bulletin.    Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can help you take advantage of this (very time-sensitive for some) opportunity to file I-485 applications.    We are also happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application.

Further Updates and News

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about the June 2014 Visa Bulletin.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

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Visa Bulletin Predictions and Comments by Charles Oppenheim – EB-2 India to Advance, Finally (April 2014)

On behalf of our clients and readers we are always trying to obtain any reliable information on the movements in the cutoff dates for the upcoming Visa Bulletins.    The best source of this information is the Mr. Charles Oppenheim who is the Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State and who is actually the person responsible for the monthly and annual visa number allocations for family- and employment-based green cards.    Mr.  Oppenheim had just recently shared some thoughts about the anticipated cutoff date movements in the next few Visa Bulletins and we are happy to share this information with our clients and readers.

Visa Bulletin Predictions – Employment-Based

Mr. Oppenheim was able to provide some predictions and expectations for movement of visa numbers over the next few months.   Please note that these are short-term predictions and depending on the number of applications as a result of the next few months’ visa numbers, the rate of cutoff date movement may change.

EB-1.   This category is expected to remain current throughout the fiscal year.   Also, it is too early in the fiscal year to be able to determine how many unused EB-1 visa numbers there will be to “drop down” into the EB-2 category.

EB-2 Rest of World (ROW).  This category is expected to remain current throughout the fiscal year.

EB-2 India.  This is the major headline from Mr. Oppenheim’s comments –  EB-2 India is likely to move forward to January 1, 2008 during the August or (more likely) September Visa Bulletin.   This movement will aim to utilize all of the available visa numbers for the fiscal year that may be unused by other categories (possibly 5,000 or more, but fewer compared to prior years).

EB-3 Rest of World (ROW).  This category has seen increased demand over the past few months (due to the significant movements) and it is unlikely that there will be forward movement in the short term.  In fact, if demand continues at its current pace, there may be a retrogression as early as June 2014.   Retrogression is possible for the last quarter of fiscal year 2014 (Jul-Sep 2014) and this is a call for all EB-3 ROW applicants who are current to file their I-485s as soon as possible.

EB-3 China.    As a result of many EB-2 China applicants “downgrading” to EB-3 it is expected that EB-3 China will see some retrogression over the next month or two.

EB-5 China.  Mr. Oppenheim suggested that the demand for EB-5 is high and a cutoff date may be introduced in August or September.   Retrogression for EB-5 China is “inevitable” given the high number of EB-5 pending applications for Chinese nationals.

Visa Bulletin Predictions – Family-Based

Additionally, Mr. Oppenheim was able to provide some predictions and expectations for movement of visa numbers over the next few months for the family-based categories as well.

FB-2A.   Demand is starting to increase; as a result, FB-2A Mexico will retrogress soon.  FB-2A ROW is also likely to retrogress, perhaps back to 2012 in the June or July 2014 Visa Bulletin.

FB-2B.  Due to low demand currently, additional forward movement is expected.

Note on Timing of NVC Fee Invoices

Mr. Oppenheim noted that the National Visa Center (NVC) is sending our requests for fee payments about 8 to 12 months in advance of the priority date becoming current (this is change to the previous practice of doing so 12-18 months in advance).    When applicants pay the fee earlier after receipt of the fee invoice, Mr. Oppenheim is able to “see” the demand earlier and adjust the demand in the category accordingly, eliminating the need of major forward movement, followed by a retrogression.

Conclusion

Mr. Oppenheim’s comments are extremely helpful to get a sense of the visa cutoff dates over the next few months.  We understand, as Mr. Oppenheim does, that his comments and predictions would give hope to some, while disappoint others.   Our EB-2 India clients would find Mr. Oppenheim’s predictions encouraging given the fact that there was no movement in EB-2 India for a long time.  A forward movement in this category would allow EB-2 India and China applicants to become eligible to file I-485 applications who would later be eligible to take advantage of AC21 portability rules and take new employment and more freely advance their careers.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can review your case, answer any questions or schedule a consultation.   We also invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

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March 2014 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India Unchanged; EB-3 ROW, China and Mexico Advance Again; No Movement in FB-2A; FB-2A Mexico Retrogression

The U.S. State Department has just released the March 2014 Visa Bulletin which is the sixth Visa Bulletin for the FY2014 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the expected lack of movement in EB-2 India, the continued forward  movement in EB-3 ROW, China and Mexico, the fact that FB-2A remains unchanged with a (relatively) recent cutoff date, and the significant 18-month retrogression for FB-2A Mexico.

Summary of the March 2014 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based (EB)

Below is a summary of the March 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to the employment-based categories:

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India remains unchanged at November 15, 2004 and is expected to remain at this level for some more time (with possible forward movement later in the fiscal year).  EB-2 China moves forward by five (5) weeks to February 15, 2009.
  • EB-3 ROW, China and Mexico move forward by three (3) months to September 1, 2012.  EB-3 Philippines moves forward by two (2) weeks to May 1, 2007, while EB-3 India  moves forward (finally!) by two (2) weeks to September 15, 2003.
  • The “other worker” moves forward by three (3) months to September 1, 2012 for ROW, China and Mexico.  It moves forward by two (2) weeks to May 1, 2007 for Philippines and moves forward by two (2) weeks to September 15, 2003 for India.

Summary of the March 2014 Visa Bulletin – Family-Based (FB)

Below is a summary of the March 2014 Visa Bulletin with respect to family-based categories:

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by one (1) month to February 1, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by two (2) weeks to October 15, 1993 and FB-1 Philippines remains unchanged at August 15, 2001.
  • FB-2A remains unchanged (again) for all ROW, China, India and Philippines at September 8, 2013.  It retrogresses for Mexico by moving back almost 18 months to April 15, 2012.
  • FB-2B ROW, China and India all move forward by seven (7) weeks to September 1, 2006.  FB-2B Mexico remains unchanged at May 1, 1993 while FB-2B Philippines moves forward by two (2) weeks to June 8, 2003.

EB-2 India Remains Unchanged; EB-3 India Barely Moves Forward

Unfortunately, no news for EB-2 India means continued disappointment in the lack of movement in this category.  In the fall of 2013, we reported on the expected retrogression in the EB India categories due to high demand and the December 2013 Visa Bulletin, together with the subsequent three Visa Bulletins, confirm our predictions.    The last few Visa Bulletins showed that our expectations were absolutely correct even though many of our EB India clients and readers were disappointed by this news.    Unfortunately, since EB-2 India remains severely retrogressed, we expect that there would be no forward movement for at least several months (perhaps until Summer 2014).   The rationale behind this severe retrogression (in December 2013) and the lack of movement for the next several months in EB-2 India is that there is simply too much “demand” (number of pending cases caused by I-485 filings and EB-3 to EB-2 porting cases, plus adding dependents) in this category and the Visa Office has to “stop” the rate of new filings by moving back the cutoff date until USCIS and DOS are able to approve the pending cases and “clear” the demand.

EB-3 ROW, China and Mexico Move Forward Again

In contrast to EB India, we note that the EB-3 ROW, China and Mexico categories continue to move forward (again) and with a good pace.   Last month the forward movement in this category was two months, following a six-month forward movement in the January 2014 Visa Bulletin.   This is another significant movement and would help many EB-3 applicants who are waiting for a visa number to either file their I-485 adjustment of status applications or process their immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad.   Overall, the EB-3 ROW, China and Mexico categories have advanced by almost one year over the past three months.

EB-3 China Continues to be Ahead of EB-2 China

Over the past couple of months or so, our office has handled many inquiries from Chinese nationals who are EB-2 applicants and who try to find out whether it makes sense to refile under EB-3 to take advantage of the unique situation where the cutoff date for EB-3 China (September 1, 2012) is more advanced than the date for EB-2 China (February 15, 2009).

In some cases,  an EB-2 China applicant can seek to “downgrade” their preference category, while retaining their priority date, in order to have a current priority date under the EB-3 category and to be able to file their I-485 application.   As a background, many EB-2 PERM Labor Certifications are drafted in a way allowing the subsequent filing of an EB-3 I-140 petition on the basis of the same PERM — thereby retaining the priority date under the EB-3 category.    While it is possible to use a PERM which has already expired if it has been used in support of a previous I-140, a new EB-3 I-140 filing may not be filed under premium processing.  Filing an I-140 under regular processing may take around four to five months and it is entirely possible that by the time an EB-3 I-140 is approved, the EB-3 China cutoff dates may retrogress.

We also caution our clients and readers, especially the China employment-based applicants, that the historic average for an EB-3 China priority date to become current and for a green card under this category to be approved is still significantly higher than the historic average wait time under EB-2.   As a result, even if it is possible that an EB-3 “downgrade” may allow the I-485 filing, we still believe that ultimately, an EB-2 China application would take less time to approve.

Our office is happy to consult applicants who are in this situation and are considering filing under EB-3 to take advantage of the more advanced EB-3 China cutoff dates.   Please contact us if we can help.

FB-2A Remains Unchanged; FB2A Mexico Retrogresses Significantly

Another notable development (or lack thereof) is the fact that FB-2A cutoff date remains unchanged, after the introduction of a cutoff date in the October 2013 Visa Bulletin.   We expected the October 2013 FB-2A cutoff date to be introduced and the fact that it remains unchanged is not surprising since it appears that USCIS and the Department of State have seen increased number of filings in this category.   Also not entirely unexpected is the retrogression in FB-2A for Mexican nationals — the Department of State has been cautioning that they see significant demand in this category and a retrogression would be forthcoming.

We urge those FB-2A Mexico nationals who are current now and who would not be current as of March 1 to consider filing their I-485 application as soon as possible to take advantage of this (rare) opportunity to file I-485 and obtain work and travel authorization documents for as long as the I-485 remains pending.    Please contact us if we can help.

Current Priority Date?

Our office stands ready to assist in the applicable process to take advantage of a current (or close to current) priority date.   Those applicants whose priority dates are current as of the March 2014 Visa Bulletin may be eligible to process their (and their family members’) I-485 Adjustment of Status applications from within the U.S. or process their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.   Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can help you take advantage of this significant forward movement in the cutoff dates.    We are also happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application.

Visa Bulletin Predictions – Employment-Based

The March 2014 Visa Bulletin also provides a general estimate on the movement of the cutoff dates over the next months.

EB-1.   This category is expected to remain current.

EB-2 ROW.  This category is expected to remain current.

EB-2 China.  This category is expected to continue to move forward by approximately 3-5 weeks per month in each Visa Bulletin.

EB-2 India.  No forward movement expected.

EB-3 ROW.    After the last few months’  significant forward movement, as demand (number of filings) increases, the forward movement may stop or the dates may even retrogress.   .

EB-3 China.  Expected to track the worldwide (ROW) date.

EB-3 India.  “Little or no” forward movement expected.

EB-3 Philippines.  Expected to keep moving forward by three to six weeks per month.

Further Updates and News

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about the March 2014 Visa Bulletin.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns

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