DOS's Charlie Oppenheim Weighs in on January Visa Bulletin

Every month, the Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the Department of State, Charlie Oppenheim, talks with the American Immigration Lawyers Association about the visa bulletin. AILA publishes the interview monthly (AILA Doc. No. 14071401). After the release of the January 2018 Visa Bulletin, Oppenheim discusses the bulletin by category.

Oppenheim's Take on Employment-Based Categories:

EB-4 Religious Workers and EB-5 Regional Center Categories "Unavailable. Congressional authorization for the EB-4 Certain Religious Workers (SR) and EB-5 Regional Center (I5 and R5) categories will sunset on December 22, 2017, if they are not reauthorized by Congress. If legislative action is taken to extend the authorization for these categories, EB-4 (SR) final action dates would become current, except EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which would have a final action date of December 1, 2015, and EB-4 Mexico, which would have a final action date of June 1, 2016.
EB-5 China Non-Regional Center. This category advances one week to July 22, 2014, in January.
EB-1 China and EB-1 India. These categories will remain current for the coming months, but the imposition of a final action date in the summer remains possible.
EB-2 Worldwide. The final action dates for this category will remain current for the foreseeable future. Charlie notes a decrease in EB-2 Worldwide demand, which could be exacerbated by the transition of employment-based I-485 processing to the local USCIS field offices.
EB-2 China and EB-3 China. In January, EB-2 China and EB-3 China advance by more than one month to August 8, 2013, and April 15, 2014, respectively.
EB-2 India. Consistent with Charlie's predictions, in January, EB-2 India will again advance by less than one month from November 1, 2008, to November 22, 2008. It is not likely that the final action date for this category will move into 2009 before summer.
EB-3 India. The final action date for EB-3 India will advance two weeks from October 15, 2006, to November 1, 2006, in January. As we move into the second quarter of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, demand in this category is levelling out following heavy visa number usage in October. This allows for modest forward advancement which Charlie hopes will continue at the pace of up to a few weeks each month.
EB-3 Philippines. In January, EB-3 Philippines advances one month to February 15, 2016. The final action date in this category held last month due to a surge in demand, which has since disappeared, allowing for this forward movement. Additional forward movement is possible, but Charlie does not want to advance the category too fast in case the decline in demand is only temporary.

Oppenheim's Take on Family-Based Categories:
The recent retrogressions in FB-1 Philippines and FB-2B Philippines may continue to hold for a while. FB-1 Philippines has already used more than forty percent of its annual numbers, whereas it normally uses fifty-four percent of its visa numbers by March. This means that FB-1 Philippines only has approximately eleven percent of its numbers to use between January and March.
FB-4 India is advancing, and the FB-2A category for all countries is also moving faster than expected. Members should continue to watch these categories closely.

Posting of Projections in the Visa Bulletin
Members should not expect projections to be reported in the Visa Bulletin until February at the earliest due to uncertainty in how the transition of employment-based I-485 processing to USCIS field offices will impact visa number demand. Once Charlie gains more clarity regarding the rate of USCIS field office processing of employment based I-485s, reporting of projections in the Visa Bulletin should resume.

MEMBER QUESTION: Will the phenomenon happening with individuals born in China (where EB-2 has higher demand than EB-3), eventually occur for individuals born in India?

ANSWER: It is too soon to tell whether the final action date for EB-3 India could advance beyond the final action date for EB-2 India in FY2018. At this time, Charlie does not think that it will happen, but there will be more clarity in the second half of the fiscal year. There are several factors at play. It is unclear what impact the USCIS announcement shifting adjudications of employment-based petitions to the local field offices will have on the demand for visa numbers and corresponding movement of final action dates. If this transition slows EB-3 Worldwide demand, that may allow the EB-3 India final action date to move a bit faster than would otherwise be possible. Such action would be based on the potential availability of "otherwise unused" EB-3 numbers. At this time, the EB-3 India upgrade demand has slowed, which enabled some additional advancement in EB-2 India. It is also important to note that there is still a fair amount of pending EB-3 demand at USCIS due to the summer 2007 surge in adjustment of status filings. However, this demand should start to clear out in the second half of the FY 2018. When that happens, the Visa Office will lose a great deal of visibility to EB-3 India demand.