Change in Law for Immigrant Visa Eligibility

In closely monitoring the ever-changing landscape of U.S. immigration policy, there has been a change in policy by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), in coordination with U.S. Department of State (USDS), whereby the USCIS is revising the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status. The revised process will better align with procedures USDS uses for foreign nationals who seek to become U.S. permanent residents by applying for immigrant visas at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad.

This revised process will enhance USDS’ ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin. This will help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.

The Visa Bulletin revisions implement November 2014 executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson, as detailed in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, issued in July 2015.

Here is what is changing:

There will now be two charts posted in the USDS Visa Bulletin per visa preference category:

• Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply); and,

• Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued).

Each month, in coordination with USDS, USCIS will monitor visa numbers and post the relevant USDS Visa Bulletin chart.  The charts may be used to determine when to file the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.  In sum, it will be possible for some beneficiaries to file an AOS application despite the unavailability of an immigrant visa number.  Thereafter, once the immigrant visa number becomes available, the USCIS will adjudicate the AOS application.

The USDS announced yesterday that beginning on October 1, 2015, it will accept AOS applications for Indians in the EB-2 category who have priority dates of July 1, 2011 or earlier, and it will accept AOS applications for Chinese in the EB-2 category who have priority dates of January 1, 2012 or earlier. In addition, the applicant must have completed the 3-year service obligation to be eligible to file the AOS application, if applicable.