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.)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Immigration Premium Processing Fee Increased to $1,440


USCIS premium processing fee has been increased from $1,410 to $1,440 effective 12/02/2019. The new fee applies to premium processing requests of the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (H-1B, L-1, O, R, etc.), and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, from $1,410 to $1,440. Applications postmarked on or after 12/2/2019 must include the new fee. 

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Premium processing is an optional service available to applicants if they want to have a decision within 15 days.  A decision can be an approval, a denial or other responses or requests from USCIS.  The fee is additional to all other filing fees.  

Sunday, December 1, 2019

How to use the Visa Bulletin


If you are interested in immigrating to America, the monthly Visa Bulletin published by the U.S. Department of State is a document that you should understand well.  This article describes how one may read and use the Visa Bulletin as a tool to guide them through the immigration process.

What is the Visa Bulletin?
The U.S. Congress by law only allows fixed numbers of foreign nationals to immigrate to the United States every year.  For example, only 140,000 visa numbers are available for employment-based immigrants per year.  These visa quotas are not sufficient to meet the demands for visa numbers.  As a result, lines are formed for foreign applicants who wish to immigrate to the United States.  Visa numbers are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. The Visa Bulletin is the reference material for applicants to find out where they stand in line at a given time. 

What visa categories does the Visa Bulletin cover?
The Visa Bulletin covers most of the employment-based immigrant visa categories.  For immigration based on family relationship, the Visa Bulletin only covers four main preference visa categories.  The Visa Bulletin does not cover immediate relative petitions.  Immediate relatives are the spouses, parents and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens.  Immediate relatives are not subject to the annual visa limits. 

What is your priority date?
In order to use the Visa Bulletin to check the status of your case, you need to know what your case priority date is.  You can think of the priority date as the date that your case was formally started. For family petitions, it is generally the date that the Form I-130 was properly filed with the U.S. government.  For employment petitions, it is the date that the Permanent Foreign Certification or the Form I-140 visa petition was properly filed. 

How to use the Visa Bulletin?
Let's say you are 25 and single, born in the Philippines, and you were sponsored by your father (who is a permanent resident of the U.S.)  The I-130 visa petition was submitted on 12/05/2008 (priority date) to USCIS with the correct fees and all required documents. Today is 12/1/2019 and you would like to know whether you are eligible for a green card yet.  First, you look for the Final Action Date table for Family Preference categories in the December 2019 Visa Bulletin.  (Note - AD stands for Final Action).  Then, you look at the date for your particular country and preference category. Here, it would be Philippines' F2B (unmarried adult sons or daughters of lawful residents).  The table shows a Final Action cutoff date of 12/01/2008.  Since your priority date (12/05/2008) comes after 12/01/2008, it means that your priority date is not yet current.  Your priority date must be BEFORE the cutoff date (12/01/2008) in order for you to receive an immigrant visa.

Even if you have a current priority date, don't expect that you will get your green card in the mail soon.  Generally speaking, it means that the U.S. government may legally issue a green card or an immigration visa (for overseas applicants) to you.  You must still meet other legal and documentary requirements.  In most cases, it usually means that you still have to submit your final applications and documents or attend an interview with an immigration or consular officer first before your green card can be approved. 

What is the Filing Date Table?
In the Visa Bulletin, in addition to the Final Action Date tables, there are also Filing Date tables.  The Filing Dates are used by the State Department for overseas applicants. While The Final Action dates control when a person can actually become a U.S. lawful resident, the Filing dates determine when an applicant may submit the final documents required for immigration such as police clearances and financial support documents.  However, the USCIS, which processes immigration petitions filed within the United States, may choose not to follow the Filing dates at any given month. If so, you must submit  your green card application (generally the Form I-485 Adjustment Application) based on the Final Action Dates.

Final Words
You must always use the Visa Bulletin for the current month to check your place in the visa line.  But you may use next month's Visa Bulletin for planning purposes. Your country of birth, not country of nationality, determines which column of cutoff dates to follow.  "Other Countries" refer to all worldwide countries that have not been separately listed.  "C" means that there is no line and all applicants are eligible to receive a visa.  "U" means visa numbers are temporarily unavailable for a particular category, regardless of your priority date. 

Visa Bulletin Predictions - December 2019 and Beyond


Every month after the release of the monthly visa bulletin, DOS Visa Office Chief Mr. Charlie Oppenheim provides his insights to AILA on the trends, movements, predictions, etc. regarding the usage of immigrant visa numbers. The following are his most important insights following up on the publication of the December 2019 visa bulletin.

Family Visa Categories

F2A Final Action Date has been current Worldwide since July 2019, and will remain that way, owing to continued low demand. 

Demand for F4 category has grown immensely since October, which may slow movement. However, Charlie says that it will likely not retrogress soon. 

Overall, family-based categories will continue forward movement as Charlie had predicted. He notes that advancement could slow down in the near future when demand starts to materialize.

Employment Visa Categories

As Charlie expected, EB-1 Worldwide advanced 6 weeks to July 15, 2018 and EB-1 China 10 weeks to May 15, 2017. EB-1 India has not changed from January 1, 2015. Charlie expects EB-1 Worldwide to continue advancing up to 3 months at a time. 

EB-2 Worldwide demand is high and could retrogress by January 2020. As predicted, EB-2 India's Final Action Date moved forward 2 days to May 15, 2009. China advanced 2 months to June 22, 2015 in December. The gap between EB-2 and EB-3 China is now around 4 months.

(Note: For China, downgrading from EB-2 to EB-3 China is still a viable option for applicants who want to speed up their green card application process.)

EB-3 Worldwide demand is also high and could have a Final Action Date by January 2020. EB-3 China remains at November 1, 2015 for December while EB-3 India remains at January 1, 2019. EB-3 China Other Workers advances 1 month to March 1, 2008 while EB-3 India Other Workers stays at January 1, 2019. 

EB-3 Philippines has used a large number of visas so far this fiscal year. Charlie foresees slowed advancement in this category. 

EB-4 Worldwide, excluding El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, is now current following reauthorization of the EB-4 Certain Religious Workers program by Congress. 

EB-5 Regional Centers (I5 & R5) have also been reauthorized by Congress. EB-5 China and Vietnam both advance 2 weeks. EB-5 China now has a date of November 15, 2014, and Vietnam December 1, 2016. EB-5 India advances 3 weeks to January 1, 2018. Other countries remain current.

Friday, November 22, 2019

December 2019 Visa Bulletin


In the December Visa Bulletin, Filing Dates for EB-1 become "Current" for all countries except China and India. 

EB-1 Final Action Date for China advances 3.5 months to 05/15/2017. India stays the same. All other countries move forward for 1.5 months.  

EB-2 China Final Action date advances 99 days. Both EB-3 and Other Workers categories for Philippines advance 1 month. 

Family-based cases also show positive movements in most categories. Family 1st Philippines advances 1.5 months while "Other Countries", China, and India advance 2.5 months. 

Family 2B "Other Countries", China, and India move forward for 1 month, while Philippines advances 2 months. 

Family 2A remains CURRENT for all countries. Spouses and minor children of green card holders may continue to apply for adjustment of status in December. 


AD: Dates for Final Action (Green Card Approval)              FD: Dates for Filing Applications Only

      Family
Other Countries
      China
India
Mexico
Philippines
F1
AD
05/15/2013
05/15/2013
05/15/2013
08/08/1997
11/01/2008
FD
11/15/2013
11/15/2013
11/15/2013
11/15/1999
05/01/2009
F2A
AD
      C
      C
      C
      C
      C
FD
10/01/2019
10/01/2019
10/01/2019
10/01/2019
10/01/2019
F2B
AD
08/08/2014
08/08/2014
08/08/2014
08/22/1998
12/01/2008
FD
02/08/2015
02/08/2015
02/08/2015
04/22/1999
06/01/2009
F3
AD
11/08/2007
11/08/2007
11/08/2007
02/22/1996
09/01/1998
FD
05/15/2008
05/15/2008
05/15/2008
07/15/2000
03/01/1999
F4
AD
02/01/2007
02/01/2007
11/01/2004
12/15/1997
12/15/1998
FD
07/22/2007
07/22/2007
07/01/2005
01/01/1999
06/15/1999

1st: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens (about 23,400 per year).
2A: The 2 "A" preference is for Spouses and Children (under 21 & unmarried) of LPR's.
2B: The 2 "B" Preference is for Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 or older) of LPR's.
3rd: Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens (about 23,400 per year)
4th: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens. (about 65,000 per year)
  
Employment
Other Countries
China
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
India
Mexico
Philippines

Vietnam
EB1
AD
    07/15/2018
   
05/15/2017

07/15/2018
  01/01/2015

07/15/2018

07/15/2018

07/15/2018
FD
C
09/01/2017
C
03/15/2017
C
C
C
EB2
AD

C

06/22/2015
C
  05/15/2009

C

C
        
C
FD
C
08/01/2016
C
07/01/2009
C
C
C
EB3
AD
C
11/01/2015
C
01/01/2009
C
03/01/2018
C
FD
C
03/01/2017
C
02/01/2010
C
C
C
Other Workers
  AD
C
03/01/2008
C
01/01/2009
C
03/01/2018
C
FD
C
08/01/2008
C
02/01/2010
C
C
C
EB4
AD
C
C
07/01/2016
C
07/22/2017
C
C
FD
C
C
08/15/2016
C
C
C
C
EB5
AD
C
11/15/2014
C
01/01/2018
C
C
12/01/2016
FD
C
05/15/2015
C
C
C
C
C

1st: Priority Workers (Extraordinary ability aliens, multinational companies executives/managers, outstanding 
prof./researchers)
2nd: Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability.
3rd: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers (Unskilled.)
4th: "Special Immigrants" (Religious & others)    
5th: Employment Creation (Investors)

Notes:  The following two categories (not listed above) have become "unavailable"  for all countries in December 2019:
- Certain Religious Workers


- 5th Regional Center (I5 and R5)