Updated I-485 Inventory: May 2012

The pending I-485 inventory charts posted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) were recently updated. These charts detail the number of pending employment-based (EB) adjustment-of-status (I-485) cases by EB preference category, country of chargeability, and month and year of the priority date. This information can help MurthyDotCom readers to better understand case backlogs and the waiting times for visa availability in the various EB categories.

USCIS I-485 Charts as of May 2012

The most recent as well as historical EB I-485 inventory charts can be found on the USCIS WebSite. The latest chart provides data as of May 3, 2012. Prior to this, the USCIS last provided I-485 inventory data as of January 12, 2012. We at the Murthy Law Firm previously analyzed the inventory chart for our readers in our NewsBrief, Updated I-485 Inventory: October 2011 (04.Nov.2011).

Background: EB2 Cutoff Date Advancement and Retrogression

In January 2012, the cutoff dates for the employment-based, second preference (EB2) category for both India and China continued a pattern of significant advancement that began at the end of 2011. The cutoff dates advanced by a full year in February 2012, followed by a four-month advancement to May 1, 2010 in March and April 2012 Visa Bulletins. These events were followed by the depletion of the EB2 visa numbers for fiscal year 2012 (FY12), reflected in the June Visa Bulletin. More on this is available in our NewsBriefs May 2012 Visa Bulletin: EB2 India and China Retrogression (13.Apr.2012) and June 2012 Visa Bulletin: EB1 and EB2 Predictions for Cutoff Dates (18.May.2012).

EB2 Changes Result from I-485 Cases Pending

The visa bulletin developments resulted in a reduction in the volume of pending I-485 cases with 2006 and 2007 priority dates, as many of these long-pending cases were approved. Conversely, the forward movement of the EB2 cutoff dates is clearly reflected in the significant increase in cases with 2008, 2009, and 2010 priority dates.

In January 2012, for example, there were more than 7,600 pending EB2 India I-485 cases with 2007 priority dates. By May 2012, this total was reduced to 4,904. The reduction was no doubt the result of many approvals of cases with 2007 priority dates. However, the 2008 data is quite different. The January 2012 inventory of pending I-485s with 2008 priority dates contained only 3,701 cases in EB2 India and 1,109 EB2 China cases. By May 2012, this number increased almost five times for India, to approximately 15,000. China’s number jumped approximately three fold, to 3,311.

Delays in Filing I-485s After Priority Dates Become Current

This increase in volume simply reflects the ability to file the early 2008 cases starting in December 2011, with eligibility to begin filing the remaining 2008 cases in January 2012. Thus, the January 2012 count would have reflected only those cases that were filed within the earliest possible time for such filings. Many of these cases were filed a bit later, in February and March, and are still pending because they were not processed before the visa numbers were depleted.

Significant increases in pending I-485 cases are apparent for EB2 India and China cases with 2009 and 2010 priority dates. This can be attributed to the fact that these priority dates became current for the first time. Overall, between January and May, there was an increase of approximately 27,000 pending EB2 India cases. Of these, more than 18,300 have priority dates in 2009 and 2010. Like India, the overall number of EB2 cases for China increased significantly, albeit on a much smaller scale, from a total of 3,624 to 8,337. Almost half of the pending EB2 China cases have priority dates in 2009 or 2010.

Minor Changes From Prior Chart: EB3 India / China

Unlike the EB2 category, the cutoff dates in the employment-based, third preference (EB3) category did not advance significantly. There are very few visa numbers available for EB3 and all countries are backlogged in this category; India more so than all others, followed by China.

The EB3 cutoff date for China experienced the most movement between the issuance of the inventory in January 2012 and the one in May 2012. The EB3 China cutoff date advanced from October 2004 to March 2005 between the months of January and April 2012. This is reflected in a case reduction of about 300 in the EB3 China category for cases with 2004 priority dates. China’s numbers decreased for cases with priority dates of 2005 and later, but only by a very small amount.

For India, the EB3 cutoff date advanced by only one month between January and April 2012, which resulted in a very minor reduction in the overall number of pending cases. The January 2012 inventory reported more than 51,000 pending EB3 cases. This figure declined by only about 2,000 cases, to 49,445 in the May 2012 inventory. The volume of pending EB3 cases for India is enormous, leaving many people with expected wait times exceeding a decade.

Other Observations: EB3s “Upgrading” to EB2

Given the onerous wait time for those in the EB3 category for India, many people are using the strategy commonly referred to as “upgrading” to move their cases into EB2 while retaining their (older) EB3 priority dates. [This useful strategy is discussed in our NewsBrief, Considerations for EB3 to EB2 “Upgrade” (04.Feb.2014).] This strategy may account for some of the increase in EB2 India cases and the minor reduction in cases for EB3 India.

Minor Changes From Prior Chart: All Other Areas of Chargeability

The EB2 and EB3 categories for all chargeability areas other than China-Mainland, India, Mexico, and the Philippines saw modest reductions in pending cases between issuance of the inventories for January and for May 2012. The EB2 category saw a reduction of about 1,000 cases, while the EB3 category saw a more substantial reduction of about 4,500 cases.

Movement of Priority Dates: Rationale and Predictions

The I-485 inventory charts illustrate the results of the forward movement of the EB2 cutoff dates in the visa bulletins for December 2011 through March 2012. They also reflect the enormous continuing backlog in all EB3 cases, with India experiencing the worst of this. The charts should help MurthyDotCom readers to understand what they are facing in terms of case backlogs. EB2 India and China will, once again, have a cutoff date as of October 2012, when we begin FY13. However, the charts show a high volume of EB2 India cases with 2008 and even 2007 priority dates; the same holds true on a smaller scale for China. This volume will be an important part of the equation when cutoff dates are set for October 2012 and throughout FY13, as the cutoff dates are a function of supply and demand. The June 2012 Visa Bulletin has already confirmed that, when numbers do again become available, it will take until at least Spring 2013 for the EB2 cutoff dates to reach May 1, 2010 – the cutoff date that was in place in March and April 2012. We at the Murthy Law Firm will continue to update our readers as details of pending EB adjustment-of-status (I-485) cases and the related matter of visa bulletin cutoff dates are made available.

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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.