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Department of State Visa Office Provides Prediction for Upcoming Visa Bulletins

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At the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Annual Conference, our attorneys attended a series of open forum sessions with representatives from the Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and we would like to share the following information:

DOS

Officials from the Department of State Visa Office provided the following predictions for employment-base categories in the visa bulletin as we head into the last quarter of Fiscal Year 2014:

EB-1: Current

EB-2: Worldwide category is current. China is expected to have very “significant forward movement.” India may move to early 2009 in the August visa bulletin and may advance to Spring 2009 by the September visa bulletin.

EB-3: Worldwide and Mexico dates are expected to hold. For China, “prospects of significant movement look favorable.” India may move up one week. The Philippines may have “rapid forward movement.”

Please see our previous discussion about the reasons behind the favorable prospects of advancement of China EB-2 and EB-3. The DOS hinted that movement in the EB-3 category may be more than the EB-2 category but that both categories should benefit from the reduction in demand for EB-3 and the unused family preferences visa numbers.

EB-4: Current

EB-5: As warned in previous visa bulletins, China may retrogress at the end of the fiscal year.

With respect to processing times, the National Visa Center (NVC) acknowledged that the agency is “very behind” and is working to complete the backlog of cases that resulted from USCIS’s prioritization of I-130 petitions last year. The NVC was inundated with hundreds of thousands of I-130 approvals. The number of approved I-130 cases that NVC receives per week more than doubled during the past few months, which has caused a spillover effect for processing throughout the NVC. The agency has hired a number of new contractors to assist in case processing and is now working on cases from early June. After the NVC receives all supporting documents, qualifies a case, and sends it to the consulate/embassy, applicants can expect an interview in 6-8 weeks.

USCIS

The USCIS has hired many new employees during the past few years and acknowledges that there is a learning curve for new hires.

The H-1B cap season was very challenging for USCIS this year. USCIS expects all cap-subject petitions will have initial review before August (this does not mean a decision before August). The agency is allocating more resources to H-1B, so it can adjudicate H-1B extensions concurrently. These efforts are being made to address some of the delays that were experienced last year.

USCIS officials re-emphasized that USCIS is a heavily paper-based agency working on antiquated computer systems. There is no master computer to pull case information through a national system. When a file is at a field office, the only way to obtain an update for the case is to call that specific office to have someone pull the file and look at it. For this reason, when a call is placed with the National Customer Service Center, the agents can only provide general information. Detailed information about case status cannot be given until someone at the USCIS office opens the physical file and replies to the service request inquiry.

Providing further explanation for the change in policy for Form I-693 Medical Exams , the USCIS stated that it is complying with the requirements of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means individuals with I-485 applications that have been pending for more than one year will receive Request for Evidence (RFE) for new medical exam. USCIS’s goal is to be proactive and have the I-485 application ready to approve when priority dates become current. Therefore, USCIS is working with the DOS and will issue RFE when the DOS anticipates movement in a preference category.

IMPORTANT TIP: USCIS advises that applicants should send the medical exam in with the RFE notice and do not send the medical exam by itself because it will get lost in the file room.

We hope our clients find the above information helpful. Our firm will continue to share government news and updates as they become available.

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