Visa Bulletin Analysis, Predictions, and Trends: Update on Visa Modernization Plans

The U.S. Department of State (DOS), through Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, provides a monthly explanation of the visa bulletin contents. The September 2015 Visa Bulletin contains some significant cutoff date movements, both forward and backward. Accordingly, Mr. Oppenheim has provided insights into reasons for these changes, and discussed plans for modernizing the visa system.

Employment-Based, Second Preference (EB2)

The DOS previously predicted that the cutoff dates for EB2 India would remain stable and that EB2 China’s cutoff date may advance slightly in September. However, the EB2 cutoff date for both India and China is retrogressing to January 1, 2006. The DOS attributes the retrogression to high demand for EB2 visa numbers in the worldwide category.

Advancement in the EB2 category for India and China is largely driven by the availability of extra numbers from other categories, including EB2 worldwide. The demand in the worldwide category doubled and tripled in recent months, cutting into the availability of excess numbers for India and China. There were also fewer unused employment-based, first preference (EB1) numbers available to EB2 India and China.

The volume of unused numbers from other categories drives the movement of the oversubscribed countries. India has been particularly hard hit by the unavailability of excess numbers. Mr. Oppenheim illustrates this by explaining that in fiscal year (FY) 2014, EB2 India used approximately 23,000 visa numbers. In FY15, on the other hand, EB2 India is expected to use only 7,500 numbers. This decrease is not due to a reduction in demand for EB2 India. Rather, it is attributable to an increase in demand from other countries, resulting in a reduction in the visa numbers available for EB2 India.

Employment-Based, Third Preference (EB3)

The DOS expects to exhaust all visa numbers in all categories by the end of the fiscal year. There were concerns that the DOS would not be able to meet this goal for the EB3 category because of a reduction in demand within EB3 worldwide. The decreased demand is the reason the EB3 worldwide category is just a few weeks shy of being current.

The DOS will be able to use all EB3 visa numbers due to high demand in EB3 India. This category has moved by approximately ten months over the past two months. There are enough cases ready for approval in the EB3 category for India to use up any excess EB3 numbers from other countries of chargeability.

Visa Modernization

The DOS was asked about the visa modernization proposal related to updating the way that visa numbers are allocated. This plan, among other changes, would make a higher percentage of the annual quota of visa numbers available during the first three quarters of the fiscal year.

Mr. Oppenheim notes that the visa modernization proposal is still a work-in-progress, but that that the results should be favorable. He indicates that the DOS is exploring various options under the visa modernization proposal and will provide updates as the plans are refined.

Some improvements have already been made, with cutoff date movements being implemented earlier in the fiscal year. For instance, EB2 India advanced in FY15 prior to the point at which it had done so in recent years. This early advancement gives the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) enough time to process eligible cases before the end of the fiscal year. The downside of this, however, is that the numbers are more likely to be depleted during the last quarter of the year. Unless there are excess numbers available to fill the void, it becomes necessary to take corrective action in the form of cutoff date retrogression.


As always, DOS efforts to keep the public informed are greatly appreciated. Similarly, the work to modernize existing systems and processes is a step in the right direction. As soon as new details emerge, information will be posted on MurthyDotComSubscribe to the free MurthyBulletin to stay informed on important immigration topics.


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