Labor Immigration Law

United States Labor Immigration Law News and Analysis

News Alert Articles

Current PERM Processing Times (September 8, 2014)

Our office handles a substantial number of ETA Form 9089 – Permanent Labor Certification (“PERM”) applications and we are closely monitoring the current PERM processing times not only for the benefit of our clients but also to be able to predict longer-term trends in PERM processing.

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has provided an update on the current PERM filing and processing statistics in addition to the processing dates as of September 8, 2014.

Current PERM Processing Times

This month does not bring much change in the PERM processing times – regular PERM cases still take around four to five months.     The processing time of PERM applications in audit remains unchanged compared to our prior report from a month ago.

The processing times, as reported by DOL, are as follows:

  • Regular processing: April 2014.  DOL is processing PERM applications with priority dates of April 2014.  There is no change in the expected duration of a PERM case compared to the August 2014 report.    Accordingly, regular PERM processing times should be around four to five months.   Our office has experienced PERM approvals consistent with this timeline and we can confirm it.    We hope that this continues the trend of (slight) improvement in the processing time for PERM cases.
  • Audited applications: March 2013.  DOL is processing PERM audits which have a priority date (date of filing of the PERM application) of March 2013.  This is a delay of about a month compared to last month’s report.    Accordingly, audited PERM applications are processed approximately 18-19 months after the initial PERM was filed and the priority date established.
  • Appealed applications (requests for reconsideration to the Certifying Officer): September 2014.  DOL is processing PERM appeals (requests for reconsideration to the certifying officer) which were appealed in September 2014.  There is no change in this category, compared to our last report.    Accordingly, PERM requests for reconsideration are processed within approximately a month after PERM appeal (motion for reconsideration to the Certifying Officer) is filed.
  • “Government error” appealed applications. DOL has indicated that PERM appeals in this category are reviewed on a 30-45 day timeline.   However, after filing an appeal, DOL does not make an indication whether a PERM appeal is accepted to be processed under the  “government error” queue or under the regular appeal queue.   As a result, DOL has indicated that the only way to know whether a PERM appeal has been accepted for processing under the “government error” queue is to wait for 45 days for response.  If the PERM appeal is reviewed within this time, this would be an indication that a PERM appeal has been accepted (and reviewed) under the “government error” queue.  If no response is received 45 days after filing of a PERM appeal, then this should be an indication that the PERM is pending under the regular appeals queue.

Conclusion

The September 2014 PERM processing times report shows that the PERM processing times show no change in the processing times compared to a month ago with some delays in the processing times for audited PERM applications.    Over the past several months, we have observed continuing decrease (improvement) in the regular PERM processing times and on behalf of our clients, we are hopeful that this improvement trend would continue.

Our office has developed a great practice handling PERM filings and/or audit/appeal responses so please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help you.  Also, we will continue monitoring the PERM processing times and analyze any updates.  Please visit us again or subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you obtain this and related immigration-related news and announcements.

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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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Certain US Consular Visa Processing Fees to Change September 12, 2014

Effective September 12, 2014, the Department of State is changing the visa processing fees.   Some of the fees will increase, while some will decrease.  For example, the fees for K nonimmigrant visa applications will increase.  On the other hand, most immigrant visa processing fees will decrease (some by a substantial amount).

Nonimmigrant Visas

The Department of State is required to recover, as must as possible, the cost of processing a visa application and a stamp through the collection of application fees.  According to the Department of State, for a number of reasons, the current fees for certain types of visas no longer cover the actual cost of processing nonimmigrant visas. As a result, the nonimmigrant visa fee increase will support the addition and expansion of overseas facilities, as well as additional staffing required to meet increased visa demand.

Although most categories of nonimmigrant visa processing fees will remain unchanged, the fee for E visas (treaty-traders and treaty-investors) will decrease while the fee for K visas (for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens) will increase.

Type of Visa Previous Fee New Fee
Treaty Investor and Trader visas (E) $270 $205 ()
Fiancé(e) visas (K) $240 $265 ()
Border Crossing Cards (under age 15) $15 $16 ()

Immigrant Visas

Because of a reallocation of costs associated with immigrant visas, some categories of immigrant visa processing fees will also change as shown below.

Type of Visa Previous Fee New Fee
Immediate Relative and Family Preference Applications $230 $325 ()
Employment-Based Applications $405 $345 ()
Other Immigrant Visa Applications $220 $205 ()
Affidavit of support $440 $330 ()
Determining Returning Resident Status $275 $180 ()

Full Schedule of Consular Fees

For the full and up-to-date schedule of consular application fees, please refer to the Department of State schedule of fees.

Conclusion

We welcome the Department of State’s efforts to make its services more affordable and for its fees to reflect the actual cost of services provided.    It should be noted that for fees paid before September 12, 2014 but when the interview is after September 12, 2014, the Consulate will seek the applicant to pay the difference if the fee has increased.   The Department of State will not issue refunds for fees already paid which are expected to decrease after September 12, 2014.

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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September 2014 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India Again Moves Forward by Four Months; EB-3 Philippines and FB-2A Also Advance Significantly

The U.S. State Department has just released the September 2014 Visa Bulletin which is the twelfth and last Visa Bulletin for the FY2014 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the continued notable forward movement in EB-2 India and EB-3 Philippines and the lack of movement in any of the other EB categories.   Also, very notable is the significant (and long overdue) forward movement in the FB-2A category.

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

Below is a summary of the September 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 over three (3) months to May 1, 2009.  EB-2 remains unchanged at October 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 ROW and Mexico remain unchanged (again) at April 1, 2011.  EB-3 China remains unchanged at November 1, 2008 while EB-3 India  remains unchanged at November 8, 2003.   EB-3 Philippines advances by ten (10) months to April 1, 2011.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW and Mexico remain unchanged at April 1, 2011.  EB-3 China remains unchanged at July 22, 2005 while EB-3 India  remains unchanged at November 8, 2003.  EB-3 Philippines advances by ten (10) months to April 1, 2011.

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

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

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by one (1) week to May 1, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by almost two (2) months to June 1, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by two (2) months to August 1, 2004.
  • FB-2A finally moves forward (after a period of retrogression and no movement) – it moves forward significantly by eight (8) months to January 1, 2013 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It also moves forward by over one (1) year to April 22, 2012 for Mexico.

EB-2 India Another Significant Forward Movement

After the significant forward movement over the last couple of months 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 May 1, 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, followed by two four-month forward movements, 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 may cause this (and other) category to reach its annual limit sometime in September – when this happens, the government (USCIS and DOS) will stop approving immigrant visas and a correction in the Visa Bulletin midway through the month may be possible.    The September Visa Bulletin cautions that a retrogression in EB-2 India is likely as early as in the November Visa Bulletin.

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 September 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 September 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 Processing System Experiencing Problems – Global US Visa and Passport Processing Delays Possible

We are getting updates from the U.S. Department of State and from other sources that the global visa processing system used by the Department of State to process U.S. visa applications and passports is experiencing technical problems — as a result, U.S. Consulates around the world are unable, at least temporarily, to complete visa application processing.

Database Glitch Causing Increasing U.S. Visa Processing Backlogs

The database which seems to be causing problems is the State Department’s system of record and is used to approve, record and print visas and other documents to ensure that national security checks are conducted on applicants.

The problems have reportedly started on Saturday and the inability to properly process visas has already created a huge backlog of visa applications waiting to be processed.   We are hearing that there may be as many as 50,000 visa applications being on hold in one country only (and growing), as a result.

Are You Experiencing Delays?  Share Your Experience With Us

Are you experiencing delays with your U.S. visa or passport processing as a result of this?   Are you getting any information from the U.S. Consulate?   Please contact us and share your experience.  You can also tweet us at @cilawgroup.   We are trying to combine information from various parts of the world so that we can share with our contacts in Washington, DC and also to report to our readers.

Conclusion

At this time, it is unclear how long this outage would last.  Hopefully, it is something which can be fixed over the next day or two so that normal operations would continue.   However, we caution that residual delays in U.S. visa processing may still linger for days or weeks, especially considering the growing backlog of U.S. visa cases around the world for each hour the system remains down.   If you are planning to apply for a U.S. visa or a U.S. passport, please ensure you plan early in advance and take into consideration that there may be delays in the process.

We will be providing updates on this outage as we have more information.   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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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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Visa Stamp in Canada Alert – TCN Processing Limited Over the Summer

The Department of State (DOS) has just confirmed that due to increasingly heavy demand by Canada-based visa applicants, the seven U.S. visa processing posts (U.S. Consulates) in Canada are extremely limited in their ability to accept TCN cases during the peak demand period of June, July, and August.

TCN refers to “third-country nationals” or non-Canadians who seek to apply for a U.S. visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate in Canada.   Normally, U.S. Consulates prefer for a national of a particular country to appear for a visa stamp at the U.S. Consulate in their own country or at the Consulate serving their country.   When a foreign national appears for a visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate in a third country, where such practice is accepted, the applicant is referred to as a “third-country national.”

According to the Department of State, U.S. Consulates in Canada encourage such TCN applicants to seek appointments elsewhere in the world, such as in the applicant’s home country. Canadian posts offer increased appointment availability for TCNs during non-peak processing times, such as October and November, and January through May.   Emergency cases may seek consideration for scheduling an interview at a Canada post by visiting canada.usembassy.gov.

While it is important to stress that visa interviews and appointments by third-country nationals already scheduled at a U.S. Consulate in Canada will be honored, our office would like to stress proper planning for any international travels for those foreign nationals who are in the U.S. but who would need to obtain a U.S. visa stamp before their return to the U.S.

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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