On Thursday, August 30, 2012, Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State’s Visa Office discussed the Visa Bulletin, visa demand in the employment preference categories, and predictions for FY2012 and FY2013. Notes from that discussion are:
- Employment Based (EB)-1 visa usage is extremely high. August 2012 was at a near record high. The Visa Office does not know why. The EB-1 visa category could close in September if usage remains high. It would then go “current” in October.
- EB-2 India priority date will probably go to 2006 when the Visa Bulletin is published next month (not 2007 as previously predicted). This is due in part to the high level of EB-1 usage. India is expected to stay in 2006 for some time. It could fall back to 2005, but that does not appear likely right now. Slow movement in this category in FY2013 is expected.
- EB-2 China priority date will be further ahead than India, but that assessment has not been completed yet.
- EB-2 worldwide may go current in October, or it may go to early 2012 and then current in the November Visa Bulletin – a 2 step process. Why the delay? Employment-based numbers move in a fairly predictable usage pattern (unlike family-based cases). As a result, the Visa Office prefers to have a steady usage of EB cases per month. There are expected to be many EB-2 worldwide cases pending or filed in October, and slowing the usage could help predict usage for the rest of the year. A “correction” in EB-2 worldwide towards the latter part of FY2013 could happen (in other words, potentially visa retrogression for EB-2 worldwide and no longer current).
- EB-3 worldwide should remain as posted for the rest of September. No prediction could be given as to where it will go in the October Visa Bulletin. Steady progress is expected in FY2013, unless heavy EB-1 and EB-2 usage in FY2013, which would slow the speed of EB-3 worldwide.
As reported previously, another problem with trying to predict the demand is that USCIS is not providing real time data on EB-3 to EB-2 "upgrades", and the Visa Office is also seeing a significant number of EB-2 to EB-1 “upgrades.” “Upgrades” continue to be a big "wildcard," as no one knows how many are being used per month. Mr. Oppenheim confirmed his previous comments that USCIS cannot tell him how many upgrades are filed. He would appreciate a process where USCIS notifies his office when the I-140 for the EB-2 “upgrade” is filed, so he can understand what is in the pipeline. Since the retrogression earlier this year, the Visa Office has better data on the cases pending than they did previously because cases filed with a pending adjustment of status application are pre-adjudicated, which gives his office more detail on the person’s priority date history. Retrogression is still a problem, but understanding the data is a small benefit to it.
Upgrades were initially limited to India and China. Worldwide upgrades are now occurring, with 2,900 upgrades for EB-2 worldwide in February 2012. Over 500 of those had a priority date of 2009 or earlier. The Visa Office knows it has 3,500 EB-2 worldwide cases pre-adjudicated and ready to be approved on October 1st and expects more new filings in October.