On September 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of State issued the Visa Bulletin for October 2021, which showed minor advancement on priority for backlogged filings of employment-based (EB) immigrant visa (green card) beneficiaries. The Visa Bulletin for October 2021 had been eagerly anticipated, in part due to substantial advancements seen in October 2020 that had permitted thousands of employment-based foreign nationals to file Form I-485 applications for adjustment of status to permanent residence.
On October 1, 2021, new immigrant visas for the fiscal year will become available. In addition, unused family-based immigrant visas from the prior fiscal year will be added to the employment-based immigrant visa pool for the upcoming fiscal year. However, the influx of newly available immigrant visas does not necessarily mean that the additional visas will be processed and issued.
The Visa Bulletin for October 2021 removes Vietnam as its own backlog category, and Vietnam is now included in the “All Chargeability” category. In addition, EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, and “Other Worker” applications are current in October 2021 for the entire world except for China and India.
Final Action Dates Chart
On the Final Action chart, there was virtually no movement of priority dates. The priority dates for EB-2, EB-3, and “Other Workers” for both China and India remained identical to the dates for the Visa Bulletin for September 2021.
Dates for Filing Chart
The Dates for Filing chart was nearly as constant as the Final Action chart, but did show a few small changes. The EB-2 priority date for India moved from December 2011 to July 2012. At the same time, the dates for the EB-3 and “Other Workers” categories moved the opposite direction, from March 2014 to January 2014.
In addition, USCIS has verified that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart to determine if a filing window will be open for submission of Form I-485 applications for the month of October 2021. This will be a benefit for EB-2 workers from India, as the final action date of September 1, 2011, will give way to the filing date of July 8, 2012.
Planning Ahead for Applicants and Employers
Based on data reported by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency has a significant backlog of pending Form I-485 applications. In fact, the number of pending EB applications at the end of the third quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2021 (288,677) was greater than the number of EB applications received during those three quarters of FY 2021 (246,183). This may have influenced the modest movements seen in the Visa Bulletin for October 2021 and may also portend small movements in the priority date going forward.
Immigration law (8 U.S.C. § 1152(a)(2)) states that no more than 7 percent of the employment-based immigrant visas issued per fiscal year may go to nationals of “any single foreign state or dependent area.” China and India have significant backlogs of applicants applying for EB immigrant visas, but no other country does. So even though it is likely that a large portion of that backlog is comprised of the applications of Chinese and Indian nationals who have been waiting in the green card quota lines for years, a very small proportion of those applications will be processed each year. Unless there is a change in the law or the demand for green cards, applicants who are nationals of China or India will continue to have a long wait, while other nationals will not have to endure the same wait times due to fewer backlogs for other countries.
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to the Visa Bulletin and will post updates on the Immigration blog as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.