Visa Bulletin Analysis, Predictions, and Trends: Cutoff Date Movement Will be More Predictable

Every month, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) provides an explanation of visa bulletin developments and discusses trends in the movement of priority dates and other issues of interest. This information comes directly from Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division. This month, Mr. Oppenheim provides more details regarding the changes that have been implemented to the visa bulletin system.

Background: Date for Filing and Final Action Charts

The October 2015 Visa Bulletin marks a major change to the visa bulletin process, with the DOS now providing two separate cutoff date charts. One chart designates eligibility for final action (FA), while the other signals eligibility dates for filing (DF). More details on the new visa bulletin system are are available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBriefs, October Visa Bulletin: Exciting New System Benefits Backlogged Categories! (10.Sep.2015) and How New System Impacts Family-Based Cases (17.Sep.2015).

Movement of Cutoff Dates Should Become More Predictable

The addition of the DF chart is expected to provide the DOS visa office with a clearer picture of demand for visa numbers. The DF chart can be used as a basis for filing an application for adjustment of status (I-485) earlier than would be allowed under the FA chart. Based on the number of pending I-485s, the DOS expects to be able to better monitor the actual number of applicants in any given immigrant visa category.

Under the prior version of the monthly visa bulletin, which lacked a DF chart, the DOS established cutoff dates based upon fairly limited information. This included historical patterns, pending demand for I-485s filed prior to a retrogression, and input from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This often resulted in relatively inaccurate estimates and ultimately caused sporadic retrogression of cutoff dates, especially in some of the employment-based categories.

Under the new system, the DOS will be able to determine visa number demand based on the I-485 applications submitted to the USCIS. The USCIS reviews these applications, even if the priority date is not current. Once an I-485 is reviewed and pre-adjudicated, the USCIS requests a visa number from the DOS electronically. This request is held as pending demand. Thus, the DOS will have the pending demand data to utilize in refining its calculations for visa number availability.

Expectations are that this should help to largely prevent the wild fluctuations of cutoff dates in the monthly visa bulletins. Instead, the movement should eventually become much more predictable from month-to-month. However, this stabilization will likely not be immediate; it will take a number of months for the USCIS to pre-adjudicate the large number of I-485s that are expected to be filed beginning in October. As this process is completed and the data is transmitted to the DOS, stakeholders should hopefully be left with a much more transparent system.

Little Movement Expected in Dates for Filing

The DOS anticipates that the cutoff dates in the DF chart will remain the same or move forward slightly during fiscal year 2016.

Final Action Dates Set Conservatively Until More Data Becomes Available

Mr. Oppenheim assured the public that the cutoff dates in the FA chart – that is, the chart that is essentially the same as the single chart that was provided in the previous version of the monthly visa bulletin – will not be negatively impacted by the addition of the DF chart. Further, in the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, the FA dates were set based upon conservative estimates, awaiting more data from the DF filings. This means that the DOS does not expect to have to retrogress the FA cutoff dates in the near future; and, if retrogression is required, the DOS should be able to provide advance notice of the need for such action.


Now that the DOS will have access to more accurate information related to demand for visa numbers, this should result in a far more predictable visa bulletin system. This is a significant improvement over the erratic back-and-forth cutoff date movement that has historically occurred. Subscribe to the free MurthyBulletin to receive future visa bulletin updates.


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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.