USCIS Releases Updated I-485 Inventory Chart19 Nov 2013
The I-485 inventory charts kept by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have recently been updated. The 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 provide some insight on case backlogs and the likely waiting times for visa availability in the various EB categories.
USCIS I-485 Charts as of October 1, 2013
The USCIS WebSite has a dedicated page where both current and past EB I-485 inventory charts may be accessed. The latest charts provide data as of October 1, 2013. Prior to this, the USCIS last reported I-485 inventory data as of July 17, 2013.
Changes Since Prior Inventory: EB2 India / China
The cutoff dates for the employment-based, second preference (EB2) category for India have advanced significantly since July of 2013. EB2 India cutoff dates advanced by three years and four months in August 2013, followed by a five-and-a-half-month advancement to June 15, 2008 in the September 2013 Visa Bulletin. More information on these advancements is available in MurthyDotCom NewsBriefs, August 2013: EB2 India Advancement and FB2A Current (18.Jul.2013) and Sep 2013 Visa Bulletin: Good News in FB2A, EB2 & EB3 (22.Aug.2013). Unfortunately, this trend will end in December 2013, as explained in Dec 2013 Visa Bulletin: EB2 India Retrogression & Stagnation Expected Until May 2014.
Significant Reduction of EB2 Adjustment Cases
The visa bulletin developments resulted in a significant reduction in the volume of pending I-485 cases with 2006, 2007, and 2008 priority dates, as many of these long-pending cases were approved. In July of 2013, for example, there were more than 16,000 pending EB2 India I-485 cases with 2008 priority dates. By October 2013, however, this total was reduced to 10,480. The reduction was no doubt the result of the many adjustment-of-status approvals with 2008 priority dates.
Still, it is important to understand that new filings for cases with current priority dates are being added to the inventory at the same time that pending cases are moving through to completion. Many of the cases with older priority dates were filed by derivative spouses who did not or could not file the I-485 with the primary spouse. Still others are the result of EB3-to-EB2 “upgrading,” which is discussed in Considerations for EB3 to EB2 “Upgrade“ (01.Jul.2011), also available on MurthyDotCom. Notwithstanding the reductions in cases with May 2008 and earlier priority dates, there is still a significant backlog of 32,539 pending EB2 India cases, as of October 1, 2013.
During that same timeframe, the cutoff dates for the EB2 category for China saw minimal movement, from August 08, 2008 to September 15, 2008. As a result, pending EB2 China I-485 cases were reduced by only 439. The pending case volume in EB2 China is significantly higher than the case volume for EB3 China, which is rather unusual.
All Chargeability Areas
The developments in EB3 are quite different from EB2. EB3 for all chargeability areas other than China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines saw a significant increase of pending I-485 cases. This surge of more than 3,800 cases since July 2013 is likely the natural consequence of significant movement in cutoff dates for this category in recent months.
In the September 2013 Visa Bulletin, the EB3 cutoff date advanced to July 1, 2010 for all chargeability areas, China, and Mexico. As such, many EB3 individuals with 2008, 2009, and 2010 priority dates were eligible to file I-485 applications for the first time. Case in point, in the July 17, 2013 inventory, there were only 435 pending I-485s with 2008 priority dates chargeable to countries other than India and China; by October 1, 2013, that number had swelled to over 6,800. The movement in the cutoff dates, however, also allowed for approval of many pending cases with pre-2008 priority dates, which is reflected in a reduction of those cases following the July 17, 2013 inventory.
China’s overall numbers for all EB3 cases saw minimal movement, increasing by a little more than 100. However, there are only 594 EB3 China cases showing as pending as of October 1, 2013. Of those that are pending, the clear difference between the July inventory and October 2013 is the priority dates of the cases. China’s cutoff date in EB3 matches that of all chargeability areas, as of this writing. Unlike every other country, the EB3 cutoff date for China is more favorable than the EB2 date. This is directly connected to the relatively small volume of pending I-485 cases for EB3 China as compared to EB2.
The EB3 category for India saw a significant decrease in the volume of cases with 2003 priority dates. This is most likely due to the advancement of the visa bulletin cutoff dates in September 2013. That month, the cutoff date for EB3 India advanced from January 22, 2003, to September 22, 2003. This advancement allowed for the approval of many long-pending EB3 India cases. This is reflected in the drop in the volume of pending I-485 cases with 2003 priority dates from over 9,000 to 4,222.
EB3 India inventory for all other years remained relatively unchanged, with only a small reduction. Even with the recent reduction of 2003 cases, the volume of pending EB3 cases for India is enormous. The inventory reflects a continuing backlog of 34,336 cases, leaving many people with expected wait times exceeding a decade!
EB3 and “Upgrading” to EB2
Given the onerous wait time for those in the EB3 category for India, the practice referred to as “upgrading,” mentioned above, is used by many in order to move their cases into EB2 while retaining their (older) EB3 priority dates. This strategy is also used by individuals from other countries, with the exception of China, in order to benefit from the availability of EB2 visa numbers.
Unlikely to See Further Reduction of EB2 India Until May 2014 or Later
As explained in EB2 India Retrogression and Stagnation Expected Until May 2014 (14.Nov.2013), the EB2 cutoff dates for India will retrogress in December 2013 to November 15, 2004. This retrogression is expected to last until at least May or June 2014. As a result, the volume of pending I-485 cases in EB2 is expected to remain largely unchanged, at least until the cutoff dates advance again.
The I-485 inventory charts illustrate the results of the forward movement of the EB2 cutoff dates in the visa bulletins for August 2013 and September 2013. They also reflect the enormous continuing backlog in both EB2 and EB3 cases for India. Unfortunately, due to the cutoff date retrogression for these cases, the backlogs will continue, with no relief in sight. MurthyDotCom will continue to share useful information on key issues that impact I-485 case filings and adjudications, as new details come to light.
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