Updated I-485 Inventory: October 2011

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published updated inventory charts showing pending employment-based (EB) adjustment of status (I-485) cases. These charts contain details of pending I-485 cases by EB preference, country of chargeability, and the month and year of the priority date. The charts provide helpful insight into case backlogs and the impact of advancement of cutoff dates in the visa bulletin published monthly by the U.S. Department of State (DOS).

Detailed Information Available from Inventory Charts

The most recent pending I-485 inventory charts are available on the USCIS website. The six charts break down each entry by country and overall data, as set out by EB preference and priority date. These charts help to explain cutoff date movement in the visa bulletin as they provide a specific picture of the pending demand for immigrant visa numbers. The adjustment-of-status (I-485) applications cannot be approved unless there is an immigrant visa number available. Visa numbers are strictly limited with annual quotas and other limitations under the immigration laws. Many I-485 cases were in a holding pattern for several years, therefore, following mass filings in the summer of 2007.

USCIS I-485 Charts as of October 2011

The USCIS WebSite has the most recent as well as historical employment-based (EB) I-485 inventory charts. MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers should be mindful that this recent information is valid as of the beginning of October 2011. The USCIS last provided I-485 inventory charts in June 2011. The June data was analyzed for our readers in I-485 Inventory of Cases at USCIS Service Centers and Field Offices: June 2011 (11.Jun.2011), available on MurthyDotCom.

Changes from Prior Inventory: EB2 India / China

The cutoff dates for the employment-based, second preference (EB2) category for both India and China advanced by approximately six months between June and September 2011. This resulted in many case approvals. The impact of this advancement is made clear when the volume of EB2 India cases with 2006 and 2007 priority dates is compared with the June and October inventories.

For EB2 India, in June 2011, there were more than 11,500 adjustment-of-status cases pending with 2006 priority dates in this category; by October 2011, the total was reduced to fewer than 2,000. The 2007 data also show a remarkable reduction (not quite as dramatic as the cutoff date only reached on April 15, 2007). The June 2011 inventory for EB2 India contained almost 10,000 cases; by October 2011, this was reduced to approximately 5,800.

The EB2 China category also saw changes due to the cutoff date movement. In June 2011, the EB2 China backlog for cases with 2006 priority dates was over 3,800 cases; by October, fewer than 400 cases with 2006 priority dates showed as pending. In June 2011, EB2 China had approximately 5,500 I-485 cases with 2007 priority dates, this was reduced to 3,400 by October 2011.

EB3 Observations

The employment-based, third preference (EB3) category did not fair nearly as well as EB2. There are simply very few visa numbers available for EB3. All countries are backlogged in this category; and India more so than all others, followed by China.

The EB3 cutoff date for India experienced the most movement between the issuance of the June 2011 inventory and the October 2011 inventory. Thus, while EB3 India is the most backlogged EB3 country, the charts show notable changes in EB3 for India. The EB3 India cutoff date advanced from April 2002 to July 2002 between the months of June 2011 and September 2011. This is reflected in a case reduction of almost 2,000 in the pending EB3 India I-485 cases with 2002 priority dates. China’s numbers, for the cases with 2004 priority dates, decreased by a few hundred. There are only a handful of EB3 China cases still showing as pending with pre-2004 priority dates.

EB3 for all chargeability areas other than China-Mainland, India, Mexico or Philippines saw a remarkable change since the June 2011 inventory. While the cutoff date only moved by two months, it had been progressing through 2005 earlier in the year. Thus, it appears that many EB3 2005 cases for all chargeability areas were approved following the June 2011 inventory. The June inventory reported close to 14,000 pending EB3 cases in the all chargeability areas category. This declined to fewer than 4,500 in the October 2011 inventory.

Other Observations: EB3s “Upgrading” to EB2

When scrutinizing the inventory of pending I-485 cases, it is important to note that this data is not static. The movement of cutoff dates allows for the filing of new cases. Additionally, many people with EB3 cases are using the strategy known as “upgrading” to move their cases into EB2 while retaining their (older) EB3 priority dates. This strategy may account for depletion in some EB3 categories. It also can explain the appearance of EB2 cases with older priority dates. This useful strategy is discussed in our NewsBrief, Considerations for EB3 to EB2 “Upgrade” (01.Jul.2011). As long as EB3 continues to be heavily backlogged, it is likely that the trend toward using this strategy will continue.

More and More EB2 Approvals from India and China

It should be noted that, in October and November 2011, the cutoff dates for EB2 India and China have continued to advance to November 1, 2007. This has resulted in many EB2 approvals from India and China with 2007 priority dates in October 2011, and is expected to continue in November 2011. The EB2 India and China inventory for cases with priority dates prior to August 2007 is therefore expected to continue to decline.

EB3 is Moving Slowly

While the EB2 picture is improving somewhat at this time, EB3 is a different situation. The backlogs shown by the pending I-485 charts explain why the cutoff dates barely move forward. With each country receiving fewer than 3,000 in total EB3 visa numbers per year, the cutoff dates can only move forward by tiny increments, as there are simply too many cases and too few immigrant visa numbers. This applies even to the category of all chargeability areas, which continues to have heavy backlogs from late 2005 forward. It will take a change in the law to improve upon this situation.

Conclusion and Explanation

The charts illustrate the overwhelming backlog in EB3. They show the impact of the shifting of visa numbers that would otherwise go unused into EB2 India and China. More than 20,000 of these excess numbers flowed into EB2 India and China in fiscal year 2011 (FY11). The resulting I-485 approvals and reduced EB2 pending case backlog is clear from the October inventory. There are not enough “extra” numbers, however, to flow down to EB3. Thus, the EB3 backlogs continue to build with no relief in sight. As always, we thank the USCIS for providing this extremely helpful information. MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers will be updated on key issues that impact I-485 case filings and adjudications, as new information comes to light.

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.