Update and Predictions on Visa Bulletin Priority Dates

After the February Visa Bulletin surprised everyone by advancing EB-2 priority dates by one full year (see: Feb 2012 VB: Another Big Leap for EB-2), there is much speculation about the next visa bulletin.  On January 19, 2012, Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State Visa Office discussed the Visa Bulletin, green card demand in the employment preference categories, and predictions for the rest of FY2012.  Key points from that discussion are:

 

  • Employment Based (EB) green card usage has been very low in FY2012 (started 10/01/11), so the Department of State is advancing the dates more dramatically.  Mr. Oppenheim relies on USCIS and their estimate, and USCIS had thought more AOS (I-485) cases would have been filed, but only about 50% their estimate have actually filed for AOS.
  • Mr. Oppenheim could not speculate why usage is low.  It may be the economy (e.g., many I-140 beneficiaries may have lost their jobs).
  • Low usage of EB-1 numbers is predicted again this year and a trickle-down of 12,000 EB-1 green card availability into EB-2 is calculated into Mr. Oppenheim's projections for 2012, although he thinks EB-1 number availability may be down by approximately 1,000 as compared to last year due to heavier EB-5 usage since unused EB-5 numbers "spill up" to EB-1 and then down to EB-2.
  • Mr. Oppenheim is very surprised by the severe downturn in EB-1 usage.  New USCIS adjudication standard which places higher scrutiny on EB-1 cases is likely a factor in reducing demand.
  • About 34% of permanent residency visas have been used this year, when 45% should be used by end of February.
  • The impact on number usage due to “upgrades” (EB-3 to EB-2) is still unknown.  EB-2 numbers used by upgrades was the reason priority dates advanced so slowly in the beginning of FY2011.

 

Predictions:

  • Employment-based priority dates will advance again with the March Visa Bulletin, likely by six months or more.  Another advance of one year is not likely.
  • With normal USCIS AOS processing times of four-to-six months, March is essentially Mr. Oppenheim's last chance to open the flood-gate for more AOS cases to be approved before the end of this fiscal year (09/30/12).  After March, he may choose against advancing the priority date by much, and then retrogress or advance it again as needed.  Mr. Oppenheim does not have enough data to predict demand and priority date changes in the last quarter of FY2012.