A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Visa Bulletin update by Charlie Oppenheim

Mr. Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, provided the following updates and insights about the visa bulletin and visa processing in general through American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Visa applicants should respond to the agent of choice letter and pay the visa fees promptly.
Many visa petitions are filed on behalf of applicants in overseas countries.  After these cases have been approved by the USCIS, they are sent to the National Visa Center for further processing.  The NVC normally would send out an "agent of choice" letter to the parties if they are not represented by a lawyer or other authorized representative.  Mr. Oppenheim observed that many visa beneficiaries do not respond to the agent of choice letter because they want to wait for their priority dates to become current first before paying the visa fees. However, such action may actually work against the interests of the applicants.  "When an applicant waits for the priority date to become current before paying the fee, an unanticipated surge in demand could result in the retrogression of the relevant category before the applicant had the opportunity to be interviewed and approved," according to Mr. Oppenheim.  Therefore, applicants should respond to the agent of choice letter as soon as possible, pay their visa fees, and submit all required documents to get the case ready for visa interview.  It will also allow NVC to provide more accurate statistics on visa demand and cutoff dates.

EB-5 China is expected to have a cut-off date in early 2015.
Mr. Oppenheim "is confident that a cut-off date will be established for EB-5 China and it is just a matter of when it will occur."  By constantly communicating with USCIS’s EB-5 office and Guangzhou, he hopes, by the beginning of February, that he will have enough information to determine when the cut-off is going happen.  The information will likely be published in the March 2015 Visa Bulletin.

EB-2/EB-3 China Priority Dates and EB-3 Downgrades.
The China EB-3 cut-off date has advanced rapidly to March 1, 2011 in January's Visa Bulletin, and advancement is expected to continue.  In fact, EB-3 China is now thirteen (13) months ahead of EB-2 China.  As a result, the Visa Office expects that Chinese applicants may once again attempt to "downgrade" their green card applications from EB-2 to EB-3 to take advantage of the later cut-off dates.  Mr. Oppenheim expects that such downgrades may eventually slow down the forward movement of China's EB-3 category.  The Visa Office will continue to monitor the situation.  It is very important that eligible EB-2 Chinese applicants start their downgrading or conversion to EB-3 as soon as possible.

President Obama's Executive Action plan should not have major impact on Priority Dates.
President's Executive Action plan allows for preregistration of adjustment of status applications for individuals whose priority dates are not yet current.  However, these administrative processing actions would not make them eligible for immediate visa numbers. Hence, there should not be any impact on priority dates.

EB-2 India Movements
Mr. Oppenheim observed that the EB-2 India cut-off date has remained unchanged at February 15, 2005 since November 2014.  It has been the Visa Office's practice to control movement in EB-2 India until summer time in order to more accurately capture the unused visa numbers from other visa categories.  However, the Visa Office is considering whether or not to begin advancing EB-2 India earlier this fiscal year.  According to Mr. Oppenheim, there is a trade-off of such an action.  By advancing EB-2 India earlier in the fiscal year, use of visa numbers will increase and, consequently, the normal advancement in cut-off date during the final quarter of the fiscal year will be reduced.

AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 14071401 (posted Dec. 16, 2014)

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