Visa Number Limit Reached for FY11

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) issued an announcement dated September 15, 2011 stating that all employment-based (EB) visa numbers for fiscal year 2011 (FY11) have been utilized. This means that no more immigrant visa numbers are available in the EB categories until October 1, 2011. This does not prevent qualified applicants from filing for adjustment of status to permanent residence under the cutoff dates in the September 2011 Visa Bulletin, valid through the end of September.

No Cause for Alarm: Reaching Annual Limits is the Goal

The DOS announcement is not a cause for alarm. It simply means that the EB immigrant visa numbers for FY11 have been depleted. FY11 ends on September 30, 2011. It is normal for the numbers to run out prior to the end of the fiscal year. It is the goal of the DOS to establish cutoff dates in a manner that will minimize any waste of immigrant visa numbers by having a surplus at the end of the year. (Unused immigrant visa numbers do not automatically roll over to the next fiscal year.) This goal has to be balanced against certain limitations on the immigrant numbers that can be used during the first three quarters of the fiscal year and the goal of having numbers available throughout that twelve-month period.

Lack of Available EB Numbers Impacts GC Approvals

With no available EB immigrant visa numbers, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be unable to approve additional EB I-485 (“green card”) cases in September 2011. In order to issue an approval of an I-485, there must be a visa number available. These immigrant visa numbers are issued by the DOS, and the September 15th, 2011 announcement makes it clear that no more visa numbers are available for FY11. Some individuals still may receive approval notices for their I-485s after September 15th, 2011, as there is a slight delay between the approval and transmission of the notice.

I-485 Adjustment Applications may be Filed

The lack of visa numbers does not have an impact on the eligibility to file I-485 cases under the September 2011 Visa Bulletin cutoff dates. The cutoff dates in the Visa Bulletin remain valid until the end of the month, permitting the filing of I-485s, even if the actual visa numbers are not immediately available.

FY2012 Begins October 1, 2011

New EB visa numbers will become available on October 1, 2011. This is reflected in the October Visa Bulletin, discussed in our September 16, 2011 NewsBrief, October 2011 Visa Bulletin: Forward Movement for EB2 India / China. The USCIS can continue to process I-485 applications and request visa numbers from the DOS. Those requests will simply be held by the DOS in a pending capacity. Visa numbers will be issued for these cases as visa numbers become available beginning Monday, October 3, 2011 – the first business day of the month. We would expect that approval notices will start to arrive a few days later. MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers will be updated on important matters related to the visa bulletin and availability of visa numbers.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.