According to the State Department’s September Visa Bulletin, final action cutoff dates for issuance of an immigrant visa will be as follows:
- EB-1: All countries, including China and India, will remain current.
- EB-2: China will advance by three months to July 1, 2018, and India will advance by three months to September 1, 2011. All other countries will remain current.
- EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: Cutoff dates for China will remain the same at January 8, 2019, while India will advance six months to January 1, 2014. All other countries will remain current.
- EB-5: The Non-Regional Center program will be current for all countries except China. China will advance by one week to November 22, 2015. The Regional Center program has expired and is listed as unavailable in the Visa Bulletin. If reauthorized, the Regional Center program will mirror the Non-Regional Center final action dates.
USCIS employment-based priority date cutoffs in September
USCIS has again chosen the Final Action Dates chart for employment-based adjustment of status applications. To be eligible to file an employment-based adjustment application in September, foreign nationals must have a priority date that is earlier than the date listed below for their preference category and country.
Immigrant visa numerical limitations
As FY 2021 nears its close on September 30, the State Department has provided the immigrant visa numerical limitations for the fiscal year. The agency reports that the FY 2021 Worldwide Employment-based preference limit is 262,288. The FY 2020 employment-based limit was 156,253 immigrant visas. The sharp increase is attributed to several factors including Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) guidelines regarding immigrant visa limits and usage, the slowdown of family-based immigrant visa processing since FY 2020, and the impact of COVID on green card processing at both the State Department and USCIS. Based on current agency processing rates, there is likely to be a large number of unused immigrant visa numbers this fiscal year. USCIS has stated that it is attempting to process as many adjustment of status applications as possible in the final weeks of FY 2021 to reduce the number of unused immigrant visa numbers.
The State Department has predicted in several public forums that the FY 2022 employment-based immigrant visa limit will be even higher, likely at least 290,000 employment-based immigrant visas. However, to make use of those additional numbers, green card case processing will need to increase at U.S. consular posts and USCIS.
Impact of President Biden’s decision to rescind the immigrant visa ban
In spite of President Biden’s February 24, 2021 order to rescind the Trump-era proclamation that suspended certain immigrant entries, visa application backlogs coupled with reduced consular operations due to COVID-19 public health measures will continue to limit the issuance of immigrant visas by U.S. consulates abroad. Immigrant visa (IV) applicants who are no longer subject to the immigrant ban may see their cases move forward, but should continue to expect delays as most consulates are still at reduced capacity as they try to work through backlogs. Those previously refused under the IV ban should await further instruction from the U.S. consulate that handled their application.
Expired EB-5 Regional Center program
The EB-5 Regional Center program expired on June 30, 2021 and is therefore listed as “unavailable” in the August Visa Bulletin. Immigrant visa issuance and adjustment of status adjudications under this category ceased after the close of business on June 30. USCIS has provided guidance on its treatment of regional center-affiliated filings while legislation to reauthorize the Regional Center program are being negotiated in Congress. Advocacy efforts to support reauthorization are ongoing.