The State Department has released the April 2017 Visa Bulletin listing the priority dates eligible for “Application Final Action,” i.e. when an I-485 adjustment of status (AOS) application may be approved or an immigrant visa (IV) issued, and the priority dates eligible for “Filing Applications,” i.e. when an AOS or IV application may be filed.
There again will be small but consistent advances in the “Application Final Action Dates” in the family-based categories. Each of the family-based categories will advance between one week and four months. The State Department expects higher demand in all of the family-based categories over the coming months, which will likely result in a freeze of the priority date in one or more of these categories.
In the “Application Final Action Dates” for the employment-based categories, the EB-1 category remains current for all countries, but as was the case last year, the State Department expect to establish a cut-off dated in the EB-1 category for nationals of India and China due to higher demand and a lack of “otherwise unused” visas in the other categories. A cut-off date will likely be imposed for both countries during the summer.
There again will be some advancement in the other categories, highlighted by EB-3 for the Philippines, which will advance six months to September 15, 2012. The priority date in EB-3 for China will advance five months to August 15, 2014, continuing the phenomenon of the EB-3 being ahead of EB-2. The State Department expects this to result in EB-2 to EB-3 downgrades by many Chinese nationals, which will eventually bring the priority dates in those categories into alignment, perhaps as soon as May.
The EB-3 “worldwide” priority date will also advance two months to February 15, 2017, and the State Department expects this category to continue advancing about one month at a time.
The “Dates for Filing” for all family- and employment-based categories and all countries will not advance at all, as has been the case for the past several months.
As a reminder, the “Dates for Filing Applications” are valid only for consular processing immigrant visa applications. USCIS will make a separate determination whether to allow the filing of AOS applications under the “Dates for Filing” chart or the “Application Final Action Dates” chart in the visa bulletin. The agency will post that information on its website.
Finally, the April visa provides guidance regarding the scheduled expiration of the non-minister special immigrant program, which is set to expire on April 27, 2017. Unless Congress acts to extend this category, it will become “unavailable” for final action as of that date, and no visas may be issued and no adjustment of status applications may be approved after April 27. Visas issued before April 27 will be valid only until that date, and all individuals seeking admission into the United States with those visas must do so before midnight on April 27, 2017.
In the past, we were reasonably confident that Congress would ultimately extend this program as part of larger budget legislation either before or shortly after the expiration, but considering the current administration’s desire to limit immigration (both legal and illegal), we are not as confident, especially if there is a protracted “budget fight” between the administration and Congress.
You can view the visa bulletin in its entirety below. Please contact us with any questions.
USCIS has announced that starting April 3, 2017, it will suspend the “premium processing” service for all H-1B petitions. The suspension could last as long as six months.
The announcement states that this action is necessary so that USCIS can reduce overall processing times for H-1B petitions, which have grown steadily over the past two years and now regularly exceed six months even for routine extensions.
During the premium processing suspension, USCIS will focus on processing long-pending petitions and will prioritize extension petitions for individuals who are nearing the end of the automatic 240-day extension of work authorization following the expiration of their previous petition.
April 3 is also the first day that employers may begin filing fiscal year 2018 H-1B visa petitions for individuals to begin H-1B employment on October 1, 2017. The opening of the H-1B cap is likely a main reason for the premium processing suspension, as USCIS probably expects to receive nearly 250,000 submissions based on last year’s filing volume. Resources that would otherwise have gone toward “premium processing” can now be shifted toward intake and adjudication of H-1B cap filings.
At this time, the “premium processing” suspension affects only H-1B petitions. The “premium processing” service will remain available for all other eligible nonimmigrant visa classifications.
During the suspension period, petitioners may still request an expedite of an H-1B petition. USCIS may expedite a petition or application if it meets one or more of the following criteria:
As always, please contact us with any questions.
News and Updates
Immigration law news and updates from the attorneys at Steel, Doebley & Glassman