Department of State Predictions: Visa Bulletin Through October 2021

For more on this topic, watch our YouTube video: Department of State Visa Bulletin Predictions (first aired on March 24, 2021).

Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the Department of State, has now moved his monthly check-ins to a more accessible format: YouTube Live! This month he shared a number of predictions on employment-based and family-based green card numbers, as well as how the Visa Bulletin will shift over the coming months. Below we have summarized some of his predictions.

  • EB-1 for China and India will remain current throughout the remainder of the year, barring any extraordinary spikes in demand.
  • Unused 1st preference numbers will be reallocated to 2nd preference.
  • EB-3 is moving rapidly for China and India because there are fewer applicants in EB-3 who are ready to be processed immediately so that date is advanced more quickly to increase demand and increase EB-3 applications ready to be fully adjudicated.
  • There was a “dramatic movement” in India EB-2 in April, predicting rapid movement in May as well.
  • Last year there were approximately 122k unused family numbers. Employment for a given year is a minimum of 145k. DOS added 122k to 145k to get the 262k limit for this year.
  • DOS predicts that there will be at least that many unused numbers this year, maybe more which is why they estimate a 275k limit for next year.
  • EB-2 and EB-3 horizontal and vertical spillover is outlined as follows. If employment 2nd preference category limit is 70,000. The Chinese and Indian limits might be (for example) 5,000. Once those countries are subtracted from the 70,000 limit, there would be 60,000 remaining. DOS then estimates how many of those will be used. If DOS estimates that 40,000 of those numbers will be used, they can reallocate them in strict priority date order to China and India. Those 20,000 extra numbers would go to the 20,000 earliest applicants. Oppenheim predicts that most of the additional allocation would be allotted to Indian applicants who would get to use those numbers first. It would be on a priority date order, without regard to the foreign state.

Question: How does the Visa Bulletin work? 

Charlie’s Response: The process is similar to creating your household budget. You need to allocate your income to your various expenses. In assessing final action dates, I assess the annual limits for each individual preference category, as well as foreign states, and budget an appropriate number of visas each month. How many remain? What is the annual limit? How many have been used? How many may be needed for emergency cases? What are the future expectations for our needs? How many unused numbers may come back from overseas posts? There are a lot of numbers, and there are a lot of other variables at play.

Question: How many employment visas may be unutilized for FY2021 based on COVID-based delays?

Charlie’s Response: It is not possible to comment on that at this time, but I will say last year, when similar constraints were underway, over 95% of the numbers available were used. Hopefully, this pattern will repeat this year and visa numbers allocated will be maximized.

Question: What does it mean to be pre-adjudicated with respect to pending EB cases? How many such cases exist? Why can’t they be immediately approved?  

Charlie’s Response: If the USCIS utilizes “dates for filing” dates on the visa bulletin. The applicants can file their AOS with the USCIS. The USCIS will pre-adjudicate the AOS application, but the USCIS will not finalize adjudicating the application until the final action date is advanced beyond the priority date.

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