Visa Bulletin Update
Rapid Forward Movements in FINAL ACTION DATE CHART
Benjamin Brueggemann, Senior Supervising Attorney
We have seen rapid forward movements in the major employment-based categories, EB-2 and EB-3, over the past few months. This is a direct result of the record number of visas available this fiscal year. We remind the reader that the U.S. Department of State announced that 261,500 visas are available this fiscal year, as opposed to the regular allotment of 140,000 visa. This is an increase of 120,000 visa.
The first half of the fiscal year, we have not seen as many adjudications of adjustment of status applications or consular processing of immigrant visas. There are several factors as to why this is the case. For one, most consulates were still closed for the majority of the first half of the fiscal year. Beginning in March 2021, we have seen consulates slowly reopen and we are now seeing more and more immigrant visa adjudications at the consulates. On the USCIS side, we have seen some adjudication of adjustment of status applications. We are also seeing an increasing trend of adjudications without an interview. This trend suggests that USCIS is looking to adjudicate cases quicker in order to use as many visa numbers as possible before the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2021). As a result of the slow movement in the initial half of the fiscal year, there is rapid forward movement in the Final Action dates in order to ensure that adjustment of status applications and consular immigrant visa cases are being adjudicated. This is important because the final action date must be current before a final adjudication can be made in an immigrant visa case.
The rapid forward movement in the Final Action Date chart is attributed to the above and we have seen it reflected over the past few months. Specifically, for India, the EB-2 priority date moved forward significantly from March 2021 to June 2021. In March 2021, the Final Action Date Chart reflected a priority date of January 15, 2010. This priority date has now jumped forward to December 01, 2010. That is an eleven month forward movement in this category; a category that historically only moved forward a few days each month.
The Eb-3 category, for India, has made even bigger advancements over the past few months. In March 2021, the priority date reflected on the Final Action Date chart of the visa bulletin was July 01, 2010. The June 2021 Final Action Date chart now reflects a priority date of November 01, 2011, for the EB-3 category for India. This is forward movement of one year and four months over just a four-month period. This is unprecedented even in the EB-3 category for India.
The EB-1 category for India was slightly backlogged with a priority date of August 1, 2020 in March 2021. Since that time, the EB-1 category has remained current and continues to be current for June 2021.
This rapid forward movement in the Final Action Date chart ensures that the available visa numbers are being used for final adjudication of pending cases. It is still up to USCIS and the consulates abroad to utilize these visa numbers by making final decisions on pending cases.
As of today, we have not seen adjudication of any adjustment of status filings filed in October/November 2020, when we had a major rush of filings. However, as USCIS and the consulates continue to adjudicate pending cases, we will eventually see those cases get adjudicated as well. It will be interesting to see in the coming months when we will see the first cases adjudicated from this class of cases. Furthermore, we will see what kind of case processing timelines we can expect.
We are faced with a unique situation this year. On the one hand, regular processing times for adjustment of status applications at USCIS are usually 14-16 months. However, with the availability of record numbers of immigrant visas, we will have to see whether adjudication times will actually move quicker or whether the enormous amount of adjustment of status filings in October/November 2020 will slow down the processing. It’s an interesting dynamic that we will only know the answer to as time passes.