Employee Green Card Availability Could Increase October 1, 2020

Highly Anticipated October Visa Bulletin: Employment Green Cards Could Surge to 250,000 Visas

The new fiscal year begins on October 1, 2020. Historically, the October Visa Bulletin brings an infusion of new immigrant visa numbers, allowing forward movement in Final Action Dates. This year, we could see an unprecedented employment-based allocation due to unused family-based numbers. Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the Department of State, predicted that the conditions could allow employment-based allocations to increase to at least 250,000 immigrant visas. The highest employment-based allocation on record is at 158,000, so an allocation of 250,000 would be a 63% increase relative to the highest record. 

Expectations for Family-Based Numbers 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many family-based preference categories to decrease since they are predominately processed at consular posts. Meanwhile, USCIS experienced minimal disruptions so employment-based categories remained consistent. In July of 2019, consular posts issued a total of 39,568 immigrant visas across all categories, but in July of 2020, only 4,412 visas were issued by the posts. With ongoing consulate and embassy closures and global travel restrictions, the unused family-based visa numbers from the prior fiscal year can be added to the employment-based visa. The Visa Bulletin is expected to have only moderate movements in family-based categories.

Processing Capacity

The Final Action Dates are determined by the Department of State (DOS) each month by considering the supply of available visas (as allowed by statute) and comparing the supply against the demand, based on USCIS data and the DOS’s pending files. The agencies’ processing capacity is also playing a contributing role in determining the movement of the Final Action Dates. Read more about understanding the visa bulletin. Many consulates and embassies are partially reopened, but not yet providing routine visa services. USCIS previously announced furloughs due to budget issues, but has since postponed the proposed layoffs but still plans fee increases on October 2, 2020. However, Kansas and Missouri lawmakers demanded a briefing after approximately 800 USCIS contractors were furloughed in Kansas City.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) predicts that diminished processing capacity could limit advancement in certain preference categories, such as EB-5s for China and family-based categories mostly processed at consular posts. Other employment-based categories could see significant forward movement.

What to Expect on October 1

The October Visa Bulletin should be released soon (this page will be updated when it is posted). We could see all employment-based preference categories become current, but processing capacity could limit forward movement of Final Action Dates. Immigration professionals are calling the October Visa Bulletin one of the “most anticipated” in recent memory.

If you have been waiting years for your employment-based green card to become available, start collecting your documentation and prepare for filing. If the categories do advance as predicted, there will be a significant surge in filings for the month of October. There will also be new forms, including Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

We are tracking priority dates for many clients, but as a reminder, you should contact your attorney to initiate your case as early as possible in the month to ensure a timely filing.

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