A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Visa Bulletin Predictions - December 2020 and Beyond - 262,000 EB Numbers Expected

                                                


Today in a virtual immigration conference hosted in New Jersey, DOS Visa Office Chief Mr. Charlie Oppenheim provided some exceptional insights about the upcoming visa bulletins and other related issues:

December 2020 Visa Bulletin

EB-1 India and China will advance to 04/01/2019.  Other Employment Preference categories will also advance, except EB-4 and EB-5.

Family Preference categories will hold steady in December.

January 2020 Visa Bulletin

Family Preference categories are expected to advance. Charlie specifically mentioned that he expects the Philippines categories to advance.

Usage of Visa Numbers During COVID

Charlie explained that usually the State Department uses up about 95% of all family-based visa numbers in overseas cases, while DHS uses up about 85% of the employment-based visa numbers within the U.S. 

This year, due to COVID and shutdown of the U.S. Consulates, there has been 122,000 unused family-based visa numbers. These numbers went to the employment-based categories by law. 

On the employment side, unused EB-1 numbers spill over to EB-2, then to EB-3 and back to EB-1. Unused EB-4 and EB-5 numbers also go to EB-1.  

For FY 2020, between 8,000 to 9,000 EB-5 numbers were unused due to consulate closure, mostly notably Guangzhou, China. These numbers were captured by EB-1, first to the Worldwide countries, and then to other oversubscribed categories based on priority dates. 

Diversity Visa cases were initially blocked by executive orders. Applicants were still able to submit applications. Charlie explained that normally documents are submitted in November and December and more rapid movements happen in April or May.

Allocation of Overseas Visa Numbers 

Charlie explained that he allocates blocks of visa numbers each month to each overseas consulate, although a percentage of numbers are usually unused due to insufficient documentation, etc. He would estimate the percentages of unused visa numbers - which are reverted back to the DOS inventory - when he sets the Final Action dates for the following month's Visa Bulletin.

Final Action Dates vs. Filing Dates

Charlie explained that the State Department sets the Filing Dates about 8 to 12 months ahead of expected visa availability so that documents can be collected in advance from overseas applicants. DHS may also choose to use the Filing Date chart based on their caseload and resources. For the last fiscal year, DHS only chose to use the Filing Dates in the early months.  Still, Charlie mentioned that DHS usage of immigrants visa numbers in adjustment cases has become more visible to him, which in turn enabled him to more accurately set the cutoff dates in the Visa Bulletins.  For example, for FS 2020, his use of employment-based visa numbers were within 9,000 of the available numbers, or 147K of 156K.  

Overview of Visa Numbers: All-time-high of 262K EB Numbers

Charlie explained that there are statutory limits of 262K and 140K immigrant visa  numbers for family-based and employment-based visa categories respectively.  As explained, unused family numbers are spilled over to the employment categories.  As a result, for FY 2021, Charlie expects an all-time-high of 262K available visa numbers for the employment categories.  Diversity Visa numbers are expected to remain at 55K. 

Delay of Visa Bulletin Release

When asked about the delay of the recent Visa Bulletin releases, Charlie explained that each Visa Bulletin needs to be cleared by certain groups of individuals, without further elaboration.  Apparently the recent delay was caused by slower clearance process. 


 (Immigration laws and policies change regularly.  If you have any questions regarding this article, please visit www.1visa1.com to schedule legal consultation.) 



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