December 2015 Visa Bulletin Official Insights and Predictions17 Nov 2015
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) provides a monthly visa bulletin explanation, through Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division. This month, Mr. Oppenheim provides more details regarding the predictions in the December 2015 Visa Bulletin, as well as insights into the reasons for visa bulletin developments.
Final Action (FA) Cutoff Dates Only
The DOS information only addresses the changes in the FA cutoff dates. The dates for filing (DF) cutoff dates are unchanged. Moreover, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is not accepting employment-based filings in December under the DF cutoff dates.
India: Employment-Based, Second Preference (EB2)
The FA cutoff date for EB2 India advances by seven months in the December 2015 Visa Bulletin. This advancement is primarily the result of the substantial rollback of this cutoff date at the end of the prior fiscal year. Up to eight months of advancement in this category, per month, are projected over the next several months in the DOS’s visa bulletin predictions. Note, however, that the eight-month projection is the maximum amount of anticipated forward movement. At this time, the DOS believes that the actual progress per month may be closer to four-to-six months.
One reason the DOS believes that the advancement will need to be slowed to something less than eight months per month is that advancement generates demand for visa numbers. Specifically, as EB2 advances, this generates demand from what are known as EB3-to-EB2 “upgrades.” The eight-month advancement in EB2 will only be possible in the absence of anticipated volumes of EB3 “upgrade” requests.
China: Employment-Based, Second and Third Preferences (EB2 and EB3)
The EB2 FA date for China does not change in the December 2015 Visa Bulletin. The DOS expects this cutoff date to remain largely stagnant over the next several months. The visa number usage in this category is expected to exceed the target numbers for the first quarter of the current fiscal year. In order to control this usage, the DOS will have to hold the FA cutoff date.
The FA cutoff date in EB3 China is slightly more favorable than the EB2 China cutoff date. This may motivate requests to downgrade from EB2 and, thus, push demand from EB2 into EB3. This interplay between EB2 and EB3 China has occurred during the prior two fiscal years and ultimately balances the demand between the categories.
Family-Based, Second Preference (FB2A and FB2B)
In fiscal year 2015, the DOS rapidly advanced the cutoff dates in FB2B, which is for unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents, age 21 or older. The DOS reports that demand for visa numbers is starting to appear in the FB2B category as the result of the movement of the cutoff dates.
In the FB2A category, which is for spouses and children of permanent residents, the DOS reports that demand is low, despite advancement of the cutoff dates. Therefore, the DOS expects advancement in this category to continue during the coming months.
Impact of Visa Bulletin Changes
As has been widely discussed, the visa bulletin system changed radically as of October 2015. The DOS reports that it is still too early to know whether the addition of the DF chart will provide the desired insight into visa number demand. The agency notes that the initial data does not reflect that the DF dates utilized by the USCIS are revealing sufficient demand to be meaningful. However, it is too early accurately assess this due to lag times between the submission of I-485 applications and the data being reported by the USCIS to the DOS.
Until the USCIS completes its review of an I-485 application – a process that generally takes at least six months – the agency does not request a visa number from the DOS. So, while the new system has allowed for some additional adjustment-of-status (form I-485) filings over the past two months, the DOS will not receive the related visa number requests before May 2016, at the earliest.
As always, the predictions provided by the DOS for cutoff date movement, and explanations of the factors that govern this movement, are appreciated. It is hoped that the DF system eventually will provide the intended transparency to allow for more accurate predictions and reduce the need for dramatic cutoff date corrections.
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