The State Department has released the May 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” as most of the family-based categories will advance between one week and two months. The State Department continues to expect higher demand in all of the family-based categories over the coming months, and this appears to be already affecting the fourth preference (F4) as the priority date will advance only for nationals of India, Mexico, and the Philippines.
In the “Application Final Action Dates” for the employment-based categories, the EB-1 category remains current for all countries, but the State Department expects to establish a cut-off date in the this category for nationals of India and China very soon, possibly in June.
There will be some advancement in the other categories of between one day (EB-3 India) and three months (EB-3 Philippines), although EB-2 India will remain at June 22, 2008. The priority date in EB-3 for China will advance to October 1, 2014, continuing the phenomenon of EB-3 being ahead of EB-2. The State Department still 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.
The EB-3 “worldwide” priority date will advance to March 15, 2017, and the State Department expects this category to continue advancing about one month at a time.
On the bright side, the “Dates for Filing” for both family- and employment-based categories will advance several months, which is a welcome change. In the family-based categories, all dates will advance with the exception of F-1 worldwide and F3 Mexico, with F-1 Philippines seeing the largest jump at 16 months.
In the employment-based categories, the dates for filing remain current in the EB-1 category for all countries and in all categories except for nationals of China, India, and the Philippines. For nationals of those countries, there will be some significant advances highlighted by a 16 month jump in EB-3 China. However, EB-2 India will retrogress by 10 weeks to February 1, 2009.
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. USCIS has not yet determined which chart may be used for adjustment of status filings in May 2017. The agency will post that information on its website.
Finally, the May visa bulletin implements the guidance provided in the April visa bulletin 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. The May 2017 visa bulletin accordingly lists this category as “unavailable.” If Congress acts to extend this program, the Final Action Date would immediately become “current” for all countries except El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, which would have a cutoff date of July 15, 2015.
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. There is currently very little news concerning an extension.
You can view the visa bulletin in its entirety below. Please contact us with any questions.
UPDATE: On April 17, 2017, USCIS announced that they received 199,000 H-1B petitions for the fiscal year 2018 H-1B cap.
USCIS also announced that on April 11, 2017, they completed the "random selection process" or lottery to determine which petitions would be considered for further processing under both the 20,000 master's degree slots and the 65,000 "regular" slots.
USCIS will return all submitted petitions that were not selected for further processing.
As described in our original post below, USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions that are exempt from the H-1B cap.
USCIS has announced that as of April 7, 2017, they have received enough petitions under both the “regular” cap and the “master’s degree” cap to reach the annual H-1B visa limit for fiscal year 2018. USCIS will now run two computer-generated lotteries: the first to determine which petitions are considered for the 20,000 master’s degree slots, and the second to determine which petitions are considered for the 65,000 “regular” slots. All petitions not selected in the master’s degree lottery will also be eligible for the “regular” lottery. The lottery dates have not been announced.
USCIS will reject petitions subject to the cap for H-1B workers seeking an employment start date between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018, that are received after April 7, 2017. No new cap subject H-1B petitions may be filed until April 1, 2018, for employment beginning no earlier than October 1, 2018. USCIS will continue to accept petitions for H-1B workers assigned to Department of Defense projects and petitions for Chilean and Singaporean H-1B1 workers.
It is important to note that the cap applies only to “new” H-1B petitions, i.e. petitions filed on behalf of workers who have never held H-1B status or who have spent one year or more outside the U.S. since last holding H-1B status. Exempt from the cap are extension petitions for workers currently in H-1B status, petitions for current H-1B holders seeking concurrent employment, petitions requesting a change of H-1B employer, and petitions amending a worker’s current H-1B status due to a material change in the terms and conditions of the employment.
In addition, some “new” petitions are exempt from the cap by virtue of the type of petitioner or the type of work being done. These are petitions filed on behalf of a worker who is or will be employed at an institution of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, and petitions filed on behalf of a worker who is or will be employed at a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization. Petitions for J-1 international medical graduates who have received waivers under the Conrad 30 program are also exempt from the cap.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as additional details emerge. Meanwhile, please contact us with any questions.
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