Tag Archives: visas

USCIS Urges Eligible EB-2 Individuals from India to File Adjustment of Status in April

The April Visa Bulletin brought a big jump forward in the employment-based, second preference (EB-2) category from India; from September 1, 2013, to September 1, 2014.

On March 17, 2022, USCIS released an alert encouraging individuals in the EB-2 category from India that have a priority date earlier than September 1, 2014, to file their adjustment of status in April and include their medical examinations (I-693) in the original filing.

USCIS mentions that they continue to encourage eligible applicants in EB-3 category to interfile to the EB-1 or EB-2 category if they meet these criteria:

  1. A visa is unavailable to them in the EB-3 category
  2. They have a pending or approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
  3. A visa is available in the EB-1 or EB-2 category

Please reach us at info@challalaw.com with any questions.


AILA Doc. No. 22031704.

USCIS Announces H-1B Cap Registration Period

USCIS Announces H-1B Cap Registration Period

USCIS announced that the H-1B cap registration period will open on March 1, 2022 and will close on March 18, 2022. USCIS will make the selections by March 31, 2022. Selected registrations may apply for the H-1B, which allows the beneficiary to begin working on October 1, 2022, the start of the new fiscal year.

Challa Law Group will continue to offer a tiered approach to registration. Read more about which option is right for your company: Planning for the H-1B Cap Registration System.

From USCIS (January 29, 2022): 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that the initial registration period for the fiscal year 2023 H-1B cap will open at noon Eastern on March 1 and run through noon Eastern on March 18, 2022. During this period, prospective petitioners and representatives will be able to complete and submit their registrations using our online H-1B registration system.

USCIS will assign a confirmation number to each registration submitted for the FY 2023 H-1B cap. This number is used solely to track registrations; you cannot use this number to track your case status in Case Status Online.

Prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives are required to use a myUSCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary. Prospective petitioners submitting their own registrations (U.S. employers and U.S. agents, collectively known as “registrants”) will use a “registrant” account. Registrants will be able to create new accounts beginning at noon Eastern on Feb. 21.

Representatives may add clients to their accounts at any time, but both representatives and registrants must wait until March 1 to enter beneficiary information and submit the registration with the $10 fee. Prospective petitioners or their representatives will be able to submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they will be able to prepare, edit, and store draft registrations prior to final payment and submission of each registration.

If we receive enough registrations by March 18, we will randomly select registrations and send selection notifications via users’ myUSCIS online accounts. We intend to notify account holders by March 31.

An H-1B cap-subject petition, including a petition for a beneficiary who is eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may only be filed by a petitioner whose registration for the beneficiary named in the H-1B petition was selected in the H-1B registration process.

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Interview Waiver Discretion Expanded by DOS: Additional Drop Box Appointments Available Soon

Interview Waiver Discretion Expanded by DOS: Additional Drop Box Appointments Available Soon

On December 23, 2021, the Department of State announced that consular officers would be able to waive the in-person interview requirements for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants with approved petitions with USCIS. This potential waiver applies to individuals applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who meet certain conditions. The following conditions apply:

  • The individual must be applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.
  • They must have been previously issued any type of visa.
  • The individual must have never been refused a visa, unless the refusal was overcome or waived.
  • They must have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility (criminal charges, citations, overstays, etc.)

First-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) provided they have “no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)” may also be eligible for an interview waiver.

The Secretary of State also extended previous interview waiver policies for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants). One change to the previous policy is that applicants eligible for the waiver authority because they are citizens or nationals of a VWP participating country must have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via ESTA to qualify.  Applicants must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence. 

The interview waiver of certain H-2 (A and B) applicants has also been extended through the end of 2022. Applicants renewing any visa within 48 months are eligible for an interview waiver. However, the Department of State notes that it is up to the consular officers’ discretion and applicants could still be required to attend an in-person interview.

Visa Appointments Are Still Limited: India Update

The DOS notes that you should check with your local consular posts for details on interview waiver appointments. There are still backlogs at most posts given the COVID-19 backlogs, limited operating conditions, and staffing challenges.

The visa services division in India has announced additional appointments are to be released:

In the coming days, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India will release more than 20,000 additional interview waiver (dropbox) appointments for Spring 2022 to allow qualified applicants to make use of the new interview waiver authority. Due to reduced staffing and numerous pandemic-related disruptions to our operations since March 2020, appointment demand is high across all visa categories and wait times may be lengthy for most routine nonimmigrant visa appointments at the U.S. Embassy New Delhi and the consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai.

As a reminder, all travelers must abide by vaccination and testing requirements set forth by the CDC, DHS, DOS, and the airlines.

Additional Resources

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Market Analyst H-1B Denied? You May Be Able to Appeal 

Market Analyst H-1B Denied? You May Be Able to Appeal 

From USCIS, 10/28/2021

USCIS reached a settlement agreement (PDF, 268.06 KB) [PDF] in the case of MadKudu Inc., et al. v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, et al., No. 20-cv-2653 (N.D. Cal.). On Oct. 19, 2021, the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose Division, granted final approval of the settlement agreement. This agreement outlines new, overarching guidance for adjudicating pending or future H-1B petitions for market research analysts.

Additionally, the agreement allows class members to submit a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, to request that certain denied Forms I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, seeking H-1B classification for a market research analyst be reopened and adjudicated per the terms of the settlement agreement. No fee will be charged for such a request. Class members have until April 26, 2022 to submit a Form I-290B.

Class members eligible to submit a Form I-290B are those that:

  • Filed a Form I-129 H-1B petition between Jan. 1, 2019 and Oct. 19, 2021, for a market research analyst.
  • USCIS denied the petition based on a finding that the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) entry for a market research analyst did not establish that the occupation is a specialty occupation, and thus did not satisfy 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(A)(1).
  • If not for this finding, the petition would have been approved.
  • There is any amount of time remaining on the period specified in the certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) originally submitted with the underlying Form I-129 at the time that the Form I-290B is filed.

Class members whose eligible Form I-129 was denied may submit their Form I-290B (without fee) on or before April 26, 2022, to have their reopening request and, if eligibility is established, their underlying I-129 H-1B petition adjudicated per the terms of the settlement agreement.

USCIS will make a decision on all eligible, timely-filed reopening requests within 90 days of receipt of the physical file at the adjudicating office. USCIS will attempt to prioritize reopening requests for petitions with LCAs expiring less than 90 days after the Form I-290B is properly filed with USCIS.

If USCIS determines that the underlying petition is not eligible for this reopening process, in accordance with the bullets above (for example, you are not a class member eligible to submit a Form I-290B under the settlement agreement), we will reject the Form I-290B.

Filing Instructions 

All Forms I-290B must be submitted to the Nebraska Service Center, on or before April 26, 2022, at the addresses below.

USPS FedEx, UPS, and DHL Deliveries
USCIS Nebraska Service Center
Attn: Madkudu Project
P.O. Box 87129
Lincoln, NE 68701
USCIS Nebraska Service Center
Attn: Madkudu Project
850 ‘S’ Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

When submitting Form I-290B, you should:

  1. Include a cover sheet to clearly identify that the Form I-290B is filed by a claimed member of the class.
  2. Indicate on the cover sheet and Form I-290B the name of the office (name of the Service Center or Administrative Appeals Office (AAO)) that made the last adverse decision.
  3. Demonstrate class membership by submitting a copy of USCIS’ denial of the underlying H-1B petition (if you appealed to, and had your appeal dismissed by the AAO, you should submit a copy of the AAO decision instead of, or in addition to, the service center denial). The denial of the original H-1B petition should show that:
    • The petition was filed on or after Jan. 1, 2019, through Oct. 19, 2021, (for cases in which the denial does not include the filing date of the petition, you should submit a copy of USCIS’ receipt notice for the petition).
    • USCIS found that the job fell within the market research analyst occupation;
    • USCIS considered the OOH entry for market research analysts;
    • USCIS found that the market research analyst occupation was not a specialty occupation under the first regulatory criterion at 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(A)(1); and
    • The sole basis for the denial was that the position was not within a specialty occupation.
  4. Demonstrate (for example, by submitting a copy of the LCA filed with the denied petition) that there is any amount of time remaining on the period specified in the certified LCA at the time that the I-290B is filed.
  5. State in the reopening request that you request reopening.
  6. Provide a receipt number for the underlying Form I-129 petition.
  7. Confirm that the offer of employment as stated in the underlying Form I-129 petition remains valid.
  8. Indicate if you want a new start and/or end date for the validity period (as long as the new date(s) falls within the period in the certified LCA previously submitted with the petition).

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USCIS Notice: Updated Guidance for T Visas

From USCIS (10/20/2021):

USCIS announced that it is issuing updated policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual regarding applications for T nonimmigrant status (or T visas) for victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons.

Policy Highlights
This updated and comprehensive guidance:

  • Provides updated and consolidated information on eligibility requirements, admissibility determinations, evidentiary standards, burdens of proof, travel considerations, and confidentiality protections for T visa applicants.
  • Clarifies that the age-based exemption from the requirement to comply with reasonable requests for assistance from law enforcement applies based on the victim’s age at the time of victimization.
  • Explains how USCIS evaluates the connection between the original victimization and the applicant’s continuing presence in the United States when evaluating the physical presence eligibility requirement
  • Clarifies how USCIS evaluates involuntary servitude claims, including conditions of servitude induced by domestic violence, as well as victimization that may occur during a voluntary smuggling arrangement.
  • Defines the concept of harboring.
  • Explains that USCIS is adopting the decision issued by the Ninth Circuit in Medina Tovar v. Zuchowski, a case involving adjudication of petitions for U nonimmigrant status, for nationwide application in T visa adjudication. Therefore, when evaluating a spousal or stepparent and stepchild relationship between the principal applicant and the qualifying family member, USCIS evaluates whether the relationship existed at the time the principal application was favorably adjudicated, rather than when the principal application was filed.
  • Clarifies that principal T-1 nonimmigrants seeking to adjust status may present their Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94) reflecting their most recent validity period of T-1 nonimmigrant status, along with the Form I-797 receipt notice, as evidence of employment authorization for 24 months from the expiration date on the Form I-94, unless the Form I-485 is denied or withdrawn.

Background
Congress enacted the Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 to protect victims of trafficking. T nonimmigrant status serves the dual intent of protecting noncitizen victims of trafficking and strengthening the ability of law enforcement to detect, investigate, and prosecute acts of trafficking.

More Information
The guidance contained in the Policy Manual is controlling and supersedes any related prior guidance on the topic. Find the updated guidance at USCIS Policy Manual – Volume 3: Humanitarian Protection and Parole, Part B, Victims of Trafficking and Volume 9: Waivers and Other Forms of Relief, Part O, Victims of Trafficking.

Visit our Victims of Human Trafficking: T Nonimmigrant Status page for more information.

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Tracking Your Green Card or EAD

How to Track Delivery of Your Green Card, Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and Travel Document

Expecting to receive your green card, EAD, or Advance Parole travel document? You may be able to view tracking information online. USCIS advises that you:

1.    Sign up for a Case Status Online account to get automatic case updates, including your U.S. Postal Service (USPS) tracking number when we mail your card or travel document.

2.    Register for Informed Delivery through USPS to get daily images of mail being sent to you. With Informed Delivery, you can:

  • Automatically track the packages you’re expecting
  • Set up email and text alerts
  • Enter USPS Delivery Instructions™ for your mail carrier

If your USPS tracking information shows your package was delivered but you have not received it, contact your local post office immediately. Remember, USCIS mails your card or travel document to the address you provided on your application (unless you told us to mail it your representative on Form G-28, Notice of Entry or Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative).

If your mailing address changes after you file your application, you must update your address with USCIS and USPS as soon as possible. We recommend you use the USPS Look Up a ZIP Code tool to ensure that you give USCIS your full address using the standard abbreviations and formatting recognized by USPS.

If you don’t update your address promptly, your case could be delayed, your document(s) could get lost, and you may need to reapply and pay the fee again. You can continue to use Informed Delivery to track and manage the delivery of your package.

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Proposed Immigration Language for Green Card Fees & Issuance

UPDATE: Senate Parliamentarian Rejects Option for Including Immigration Proposals in Reconciliation Bill

The House Judiciary Committee approved some immigration language to include with the upcoming budget reconciliation bill, which would allow some applicants the ability to pay an extra fee to be issued their green card. On September 20, 2021, the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian determined that Democrats could not include the language in the bill, calling the language “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy.” She noted that these provisions would not be allowed in the bills if the budget effect is “merely incidental” to the overall policy impact.

Although a House committee approved the language, there are still several steps before the bill is brought to the House and Senate for a vote. If passed by both branches of Congress, the bill would be sent to the President for signature before implementation. Below is a summary of the proposed language, but please note this language could change significantly before potential approval.

Summary of Immigration Language

  • House Judiciary Committee approves immigration language for the reconciliation bill
    • New section in INA that would allow anyone in 4 categories to adjust status if they pay a supplemental fee of $1,500 and pass security/law enforcement checks and medical exam
      • Categories are Dreamers, essential workers, TPS, DED
      • Essential workers:
        • continuously physically present in the US since 1/1/2021
        • Demonstrated a consistent record of earned income in the US in an occupation listed in DHS’ Advisory Memorandum on Ensuring Ability to Work During the COVID from 1/31/2020 to 8/24/2021 Essential Critical Infrastructure  Workers
      • Recapture of unused immigrant visa numbers
        • Recapture of family and employment visas that went unused between 1992 and 2021 and automatically recapture unused numbers going forward
        • DV visas remain available from 2017 to 2021 if visa refusal was due to Trump visa ban or COVID slowdowns
      • DHS may accept AOS if the beneficiary of an approved I-130, pays a supplemental fee of $1,500 plus $250 for each derivative beneficiary and is otherwise eligible to adjust
        • DHS may exempt applicants from family numerical limits if they have a priority date more than 2 years old and
          • Applying in FA-1, FA-3, FA-4 and pay $2,500
          • EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3, and pay $5,000
          • EB-4 and pay fee of $50,000
        • Would take effect 180 days after the date of enactment or May 1, 2022, whichever is earlier
        • Additional supplemental fees
          • Family 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th green card petitions shall have a new $100 supplemental fee. EB-1, 2, and 3 petitions shall be accompanied by a new $800 supplemental fee. EB-5 petitions shall be accompanied by a new $15,000 supplemental fee.
        • USCIS shall be appropriated $2.8 billion to increase their capacity to handle the new programs under 60001 and 60003.

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Department of State Visa Backlog Update

Only have a few minutes? Here are the key takeaways:

  • In January of 2020, the NVC backlog was at 80,000. Fifteen months later, the current number of applicants that are ready for interviews is 481,965.
  • DOS is prioritizing family unification with four priority tiers:

    Tier 1
    are family-based immediate relative visas and adoption-based visas, as well as age-out cases and certain special immigrant visas.
    Tier 2 is going to be other immediate relative visas for spouses, fiancés, parents, and returning resident visas.
    Tier 3 is family preference visas, other special immigrant visas for certain employees of the US government
    Tier 4 includes all other immigrant visas, including employment-preference visas and diversity visas.
  • Fiance visas are part of a National Interest Exemption and are not subject to geographical travel restrictions.
  • The Diversity Visa is a fiscal year program, so as regulations currently stand, all visas must be issued or approved by September 30, 2021 or else they cannot be utilized.
  • DOS is urging patience as consular posts continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic.

Summary of Q & A with Department of State’s Neal Vermillion

Neal Vermillion is a division chief in the Visa Office of the Bureau of Consular Affairs. His division is the Office of Field Operations, which provides guidance to consular sections, embassies, and consulates around the world. He has served for the DOS since the early 2000s all over the world in different field offices and consulates. He is glad to have the opportunity to talk and answer questions about the unprecedented situation with the visa backlog.

 This event is intended to address issues of general interest related to the content of the visa backlog. Questions and answers have been paraphrased and should not be interpreted as verbatim quotes.

Neal would like to go over the recent history of the backlog as a primer before beginning his Q&A:

Overseas immigrant visa processing has been shut down due to the pandemic for the past year, which has affected the immigrant visa backlogs in an interesting way. Last spring, President Trump signed Presidential Proclamation 10014, which prevented the issuance of many immigrant visas. There are still many geographic proclamations in effect which have been issued to protect the health and security of Americans. Proclamations are in effect which cover 33 countries. These issues have all contributed to the creation of an unprecedented backlog. Getting out of the backlog is an ongoing process, although it will be hindered by the ongoing nature of the pandemic.

The reopening process has been hampered by slow vaccination rates outside of the United States, where the pandemic remains a much more serious problem. Neal would like the listeners to know that the Department of State is aware of the problems that visa applicants face and is committed to providing relief and decreasing the Immigrant Visa backlogs.

What is the DOS doing to decrease the visa backlogs worldwide? 

We are fully committed to reducing that backlog, and honestly keeping people informed is part of that effort, which is part of why we’re doing this. I also want to highlight that we have started posting in the last month and will update monthly on our travel.state.gov the stats of the immigrant visa backlog. The National Visa Center – the current number of applicants that are ready for interviews is 481,965 – this is up from January’s figure of 408,255. For comparison, in our last normal month of processing, back in January of 2020, almost fifteen months ago, we had a backlog of 80,000 then. That number will fluctuate over time, and it does not change in a linear way.

In terms of what we’re doing, we’re throwing all available resources that we can at the backlog and we’re telling our overseas consular sections and our embassies and consulates overseas that, after services to US citizens, processing of immigrant visas and fiancé visas is our number one priority. Please understand we are continuing to deal with circumstances on the ground, and our ongoing response to the backlog will depend on these circumstances. We are trying to process these applicants as quickly and safely as possible.

How are IV applicants being prioritized?

We have an article on travel.state.gov from our newsroom that details this, but I’ll answer here as well. Basically, we have many immigrant visa categories. We have relatives, we have employment visas, we have family visas, we have diversity visas.

We don’t want to prioritize any of these categories, however, during the pandemic, we’ve been forced to make difficult decisions on how our consular sections should prioritize different visas. As we develop a framework for prioritization, the principle that underlies our plan is the prioritization of family reunification. It’s a clear priority of the US government, it is a clear priority in the INA, it is specifically our prioritization guidance that we have given publicly as well as to our consular sections. Our guidance relies on a clear direction from Congress that requires the adoption of policy that prioritizes family reunification.

We’ve given our divided immigrant visa work into four priority tiers. We have directed consular sections where it is possible to schedule appointments within all four priority tiers. The majority of the applications that a section will process if they are able to are going to be within the first two tiers.

Tier 1 are family-based immediate relative visas and adoption-based visas, as well as age-out cases and certain special immigrant visas.

Tier 2 is going to be other immediate relative visas for spouses, fiancés, parents, and returning resident visas.

Tier 3 is family preference visas, other special immigrant visas for certain employees of the US government

Tier 4 includes all other immigrant visas, including employment-preference visas and diversity visas.

As mentioned, we’re going to try and do as much as we can for each of those tiers. Some consular stations are processing some cases from each of these tiers.

Will DV 2021 selectees be able to get an interview before the September 30, 2021 deadline?

Diversity visas are a hot topic; we’ve gotten this question before.

The good news is that Presidential Proclamation 10014 has been rescinded, so for the first half of this fiscal year, we were unable to process diversity visas due to that proclamation. As I’m sure people who are interested in diversity visas know, that program is specific to each fiscal year. I can tell you that our colleagues that are responsible for this program, which is the Consular Center, has begun to schedule and process documentarily qualified visas. We truly value the diversity visa program and are going to do what we can.

That said, this pandemic is unpredictable. We’ve seen spikes in the past month in South Asia and in other places. It’s impossible to forecast how many DVs we will issue this year. It is very likely that we will not be able to issue all of the diversity visas this year. 55,000 is the maximum we are able to issue each year.

Obviously last year we weren’t able to get as close to that ceiling as we like. We are committed to doing as much as possible. As has been mentioned earlier, we have local conditions and restrictions that have forced us to prioritize. We are going to do as much as we can before the end of the fiscal year, but it will not be near the 55,000 allowed by the statute.

Will DV 2020 selectees who were not interviewed prior to September 2020 be interviewed?

I understand the frustrations of the selectees from last fiscal year. It’s kind of the opposite of what happened this year, where we processed smoothly for the first half of the year and then were interrupted by COVID.

To go back to what I said earlier, the diversity visa program is a fiscal year-specific program. Applicants who were refused because of that proclamation last year cannot be interviewed. The terms of these programs – the fact that it is specific to fiscal year is outlined in the statute. It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

If you did win and were selected for DV 2020, you can enter future DV lotteries.

That’s a great point, and I know many many people apply for the program year after year after year, and after fifteen years they finally get it. There are no guarantees, of course, it is a selection process.

Why can’t immigrant visa applicants be interviewed virtually?

Good question. Obviously, we’re doing Zoom and YouTube here, technology has changed quite a bit. I’ll give you a straightforward answer – maybe not the most welcome answer – immigrant visa applicants are required by statute to be interviewed in person. As a consular officer who has worked in the field, there are some benefits I should talk about with this process:

National security is our top priority when we adjudicate these applications. Each prospective traveler undergoes extensive screenings. Part of that is that our officers not only look at the visa application, but they also talk to the applicant to make an informed decision about whether the person is eligible or whether there are any national security concerns.

Can you talk about K-1 visas specifically and where they are on the priority list?

K-1 visas are a priority, as I mentioned earlier, we have four tiers of immigrant visa priority, and that the majority of consular sections will be focusing on the first two tiers. Fiancé visas are in that tier as well, along with spousal visas and immediate relative visas in our tier 2. They are a focus. Depending on the post, the backlogs in these cases may be longer than others.

You mentioned for fiancée visas specifically that the geographic proclamations no longer affect those visas?

That is correct. That’s worth reinforcing, since just last month. There is a National Interest Exception. There is a blanket declaration from the Secretary of State that these are a National Interest Exception.

How long does it take to process a current EB I-485 application?

I can’t really get into that, because I’m not an expert. There are so many areas that influence processing time. As many of you know, most immigrant visa applications start with a petition filed with USCIS, and that’s an area I can’t really get into. USCIS I’m sure is facing their own resource constraints, their own pandemic restraints.

Most of our immigrant visa cases get routed through the National Visa Center, which also has its own processing. It takes time, and sometimes people submit documentation that’s not complete, and it takes time to go back and get that documentation, so – public service announcement, please make sure your application is documentarily complete before sending.

At the end, if you have cases sitting in the National Visa Center that we are able to schedule, it comes down to individual posts. I’m not even able to answer that question directly. On the positive sign, we don’t have a proclamation preventing us from processing cases directly, and many of our posts have started resuming services. As of a week or two ago, there were a dozen posts that were not doing immigrant visas. Some were COVID related, such as the spike in South Asia for example, and some were not COVID related, such as Burma and Russia, for example.

Do you know about the status of the KCC backlog processing Diversity Visas? It’s been months.

The KCC, I talked with my colleagues there, and my advice is to just be patient. They are processing as much as they can in the order in which the cases are received. For those of you who are waiting for scheduling, please wait until you are contacted by your particular embassy or consulate. I’ve seen other questions about KCC, and their leadership has reminded me to tell you that if you’re used to calling KCC, they had to send the entire staff home due to the pandemic spike last fall. They used to accept phone calls, they don’t anymore. It’s best to get in touch with KCC via email, although their email system is also backlogged. They are doing their best, please be patient. KCC will get to them, and I encourage you not to send a second or third or fourth follow up. We’re trying to get as many DVs scheduled as we can.

Why are there zero interviews scheduled except for a few expedite cases in the F2 category?

Again, I’m not sure if I can get into each specific category because there are so many factors. Certain posts are able to schedule interviews, depending on their local restrictions. I understand you had on my colleague Charlie Oppenheim who can provide more details on when numbers are available for scheduling, and when they can be called “current.” It really comes down to the particular circumstances in that country.

To get back to the tiers, family preference immigrant visas are in the third priority tier. We are trying to process some, for posts that have backlogs, their emphasis will be on processing fiancés and immediate relatives.

For the Tier 1 category of visa preference, do applicants receive their interview appointment without waiting for the first and the fifteenth of the given months or will the 2NL be sent with no wait time?

This goes back to where we have a multi-step process to talk about. What the NVC does is one thing. The case might be ready to be processed pretty quickly, but a certain consular section or embassy or consulate may not be ready to accept those cases. Many consular posts have determined that they are not planning to accept new cases from the national visa center for the next several months. They will work through those and other high-priority cases before scheduling anything new.

If I have an I-485 AOS done in OCT 2020 for an EB-3, can we request our medicals now before a request is made by USCIS?

I would just follow the directions that are given by the NVC and USCIS. The answer to that is probably gonna be a no, just because the medicals come later in the process. You can tell from this conversation that a lot of my discussion is going to be general. I’m not able to talk about any individual case.

Are there any plans to increase staff?

Good question. I’m not the resources guy, so I wouldn’t be the person to ask about that. I’d love to have more staff, but this is not purely a staffing issue. If the world were perfect, Congress would now where to put its resources for staffing – first of all, staffing takes a significant amount of time with training and all that, but the important points that in many of these backlog cases, the backlog is coming from those other factors I’ve talked about – the Presidential Proclamations, the fact that we’ve had to shut down, and the closures at consulates and embassies. It’s going to be a non-linear process, but we will get there as quickly and safely as we can.

Do embassies prioritize medical professionals such as nurses under the EB-3 category?

Good questions. EB-3 is an employment preference category, which would put in priority tier 4. We recognize the importance of medical professionals, our posts are doing their best to process as many as they can, but there are certain exceptions, but at this time all employment-based preferences are in the lowest tier of priority. It really depends on your consular section.

Is It possible to maintain or go back to regular capacity by providing a COVID test less than 72 hours before an appointment?

That’s a really good question, and I applaud the creative thinking, but, unfortunately, each consular section is operating in a different locality. We need to follow the local guidelines for shutdowns and social distancing while also following CDC guidelines for operations.

Why would consulates not book IR-1 or CR-1 interviews?

IR-1s are immediate relatives, so without knowing the specific circumstances of the consulate that you’re talking about, I can’t comment on why interviews are not being scheduled. Again – patience, patience, patience. In that particular locale, the list is probably long, and circumstances are probably preventing the processing of immediate relatives, and they’re working through it as fast as they can.

Have you actually ordered all embassies to resume IV processing? What are you doing to ensure that posts are following orders?

No, posts have not been ordered to resume IV processing. Let me review the guidance that we’re talking about: We need to prioritize the health and safety of our applicants and our staff, and about the people who come into contact with those people. We cannot order a consular section overseas to proceed if it is unsafe to do so. What I can say though is that, as they are safe to reopen, consulates must follow the prioritization guidelines I mentioned earlier. Please be patient. It’s not an easy situation for any of us.

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India Travel Restrictions & Resources

Restrictions on Travel From India

Effective May 4, 2021, India was added to a list of countries with restrictions on entry to the United States. Other countries with restrictions include Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), United Kingdom, and South Africa. Certain travelers physically present in these countries during the 14 days prior to their planned or attempted U.S. entry, are restricted from entering the U.S. The proclamation notes that India accounts for over one-third of new global cases and a variant strain is circulating throughout the country. The proclamation also stated that the CDC determined the variants have “characteristics of concern, which may make them more easily transmitted and have the potential for reduced protection afforded by some vaccines.”

Exceptions

Immigrants, U.S. citizens, and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are not subject to the India travel ban proclamation. Other exceptions include:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents
  • Parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (if the child is unmarried and under the age of 21)
  • Siblings of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident (if they are both unmarried and under the age of 21)
  • Children, foster children, or wards of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents
  • Prospective adoptees seeking to enter U.S. under IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications
  • C-1, D, C-D crewmembers as air or sea crew
  • Noncitizens traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government related to the containment or mitigation of the virus
  • Members of U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children
  • A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories) or whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement

National Interest Exceptions

The proclamation also gives authority to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees to determine categories of noncitizens

  • Immigrants (not applicable to the restrictions under Proclamation 10199, which only covers nonimmigrant travel)
  • Fiancé(e)s
  • Students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs. Students subject to these geographic COVID proclamations due to their presence in India, China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa may qualify for a National Interest Exception only if their academic program, including optional practical training (OPT), begins August 1, 2021, or later. Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program, including OPT, beginning August 1, 2021, or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual National Interest Exception to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.
  • Travelers who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure sectors or directly linked supply chains.
  • Journalists
  • Pilots and aircrew traveling to the United States for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance, including individuals who are traveling to the United States on B-1/B-2, B-1, or M-1 visas, or Visa Waiver Program authorizations. This also includes certain M-2 dependents when the principal visa holder’s necessary training is four weeks or longer
  • Certain exchange visitors, including some au pairs, specialized teachers, travel in support of critical foreign policy objectives, etc.
  • Derivative family members accompanying or following to join a noncitizen who has been granted, would be reasonably expected to receive an NIE, or is otherwise not subject to the proclamations and who is engaging in certain types of long-term employment, studies, or research lasting four weeks or more
  • Travelers seeking to enter the U.S. for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.

International Travel Tips

The Department of State advises “Travelers in these categories who wish to visit the United States and have a valid visa in the appropriate class, or who are seeking to apply for a visa, and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling.” The DOS website also notes that the Secretary of State may revise the national interest determinations at any time.

  1. Limit nonessential international travel and consider postponing essential travel. 
  2. If you absolutely must travel, check COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements for each country on your itinerary. The U.S. requires a negative COVID-19 test within the 3 days prior to their inbound flight, but many countries require mandatory quarantines or prohibit entry if you have traveled through certain countries with restrictions.
  3. Check appointment availability and/or schedule your visa stamping appointment prior to departure. You should also consider the conditions where you are traveling. Some consulates and embassies can close or cancel appointments with no advance notice.
  4. Prepare for extended leave from the United States. Closures, additional travel restrictions, or lack of visa appointments could delay your return to the U.S. When you depart, consider that you could be stranded abroad for several months if conditions are unfavorable.
  5. Check the U.S. Embassy website for the latest COVID-19 information in India.

Many consulates are reporting no appointments available before October or November of this year. Some individuals whose appointments were scheduled for this spring now have additional scheduling delays of several months. If your request for an emergency appointment is rejected, you cannot attempt the request again, so be sure that the evidence you provide fully demonstrates your eligibility.

Already Have a Valid Visa? 

The travel ban is a suspension of entry if you have been physically present in one of the affected countries in the past 14 days. If you have a valid visa and the ability to travel to a country not on the list and quarantine for 14 days, you would still be able to enter the U.S. on your valid visa. You would still have to comply with any local restrictions in the third country, as well as COVID-19 testing requirements for U.S. entry, so be sure to check that testing is widely available in the third country. You should also maintain careful records of your flights and accommodations to demonstrate you have not been in the affected countries in the 14 days prior to your entry or attempted entry into the U.S.

Don’t Have a Valid Visa and Need Visa Stamping?

Most consular posts have explicitly stated that visas will not be issued and/or appointments will not be scheduled unless the applicant also qualifies for a National Interest Exception. Each post has a different process for obtaining approval for the NIE, so check the consulate’s website to confirm the latest procedures. Since regular appointments are not readily available, you may also be required to prove your eligibility for an emergency appointment. If you qualify for a drop box appointment, you must still provide evidence of your NIE eligibility.

Related Topics & Resources:

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DOS Q & A on May Visa Bulletin

 

This month’s chat with Charlie provided some valuable insight on how the Visa Bulletin will advance throughout the rest of the year. First, we’ll provide the quick highlights, followed by the comprehensive notes on the Q & A session.

Family Highlights

  • No retrogression expected for the family dates this year.
  • There will likely not be much forward movement with the possible exception of the fourth preference category and Philippine family dates.
  • Expect the worldwide and India fourth preference dates to advance in June.
  • Filing Dates are typically 8-12 months out from where Final Actions are expected to be.
  • However, 95% of the family-sponsored numerical limit is processed overseas, which is affected by COVID-19 protocols and conditions.

Employment Highlights

  • Expect aggressive movement of the June employment dates, with the exception of EB-5 China.
  • No retrogression expected for India EB-2 or EB-3.
  • There could be a slow down to the movement in July for EB-3 India.
  • The large number of downgrades in October could impact the movement of the India third preference date.
  • EB-2 for China is expected to advance rapidly, possibly into the summer of 2017.
  • USCIS processed over 95% of the 2020 employment annual limit, despite COVID-19 limitations.
  • This year’s limit is 68% higher than last year’s.
  • There could be tens of thousands of unused numbers.
  • India’s EB-2 number use already exceeds the per-country limit due to spillover from other categories.
  • Expect at least 10,000 numbers that would fall to the first preference category.
  • Since EB-1 is current for all countries, those numbers could then fall down to EB-2, leading to more aggressive movement on the China and India second preference dates.

Diversity Visa Highlights

  • All countries will be current for DV processing in July.
  • Egypt, Nepal, and Iran will be current effective for the month of July.
  • Regional DV ranked cutoffs will be current based on the amount of documentarily-qualified demand.

To view the current and upcoming Visa Bulletins, you can visit these links:

Q & A with Charlie Oppenheim

Please note: Questions and answers have been paraphrased in some cases and should not be interpreted as verbatim quotes.

Charlie Oppenheim has been with the State Department since 1978 and has been the Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting division in the Office of Domestic Operations since 1998. The division’s main responsibility is the administration of the annual numerical limitations on immigrants, subdivided by preference category and country as provided by the Immigration and Nationality Act. This division then publishes the Visa Bulletin which summarizes the availability of visa numbers for the coming month, as well as providing other visa-related information.

Q: You have previously mentioned that the FY 2021 employment annual limit is approximately 262,000. Do you expect that all of the numbers will be used?

A:  I’d like to start off by mentioning the fact that the USCIS offices processed over 95% of the 2020 employment annual limit under extremely difficult conditions because of the COVID-19 issues, which shows that they are dedicated to maximizing number use This year’s annual limit is approximately 68% higher than last year’s. Most overseas and domestic operations were already working at peak capacity and the COVID-related issues remain. That’s very important to everyone to remember. Therefore we believe it would be somewhat unrealistic not to expect that there could be tens of thousands of unused numbers despite everyone’s best efforts this year.

Q: When do you expect that the DV ranked cutoff for Egypt might become current?

A: For the month of June, all of the regional DV ranked cutoffs have become current, based on the amount of documentarily qualified demand, which has already been reported to my office through the Kentucky Consular Center. I expect that such status will remain throughout the year and that all countries will be current for DV processing, effective for July. Again, people must be documentarily qualified and reported to my office.

Q: If it were assumed that there will be otherwise unused numbers which can be made available for use in the employment second preference category, why isn’t the India EB-2 date moving at a faster pace?

 A: Although we do expect additional otherwise unused numbers under the annual limit to become available, I must not be too aggressive at this point in terms of providing numbers to the Indian employment second preference category while there is a potential need for those numbers by rest of world applicants. I will continue to move the India EB-2 date aggressively for June and July, but again I want to make sure that we do have plenty of numbers for all other countries under their per-country limits.

Q: Do you expect that the worldwide family preference dates will continue to advance through September?

A: With the possible exception of the family fourth preference and the Philippine family dates, I do not expect any forward movement, and any that occurs through August would be minimal. Based on information that I’ve recently received, we do expect to advance the worldwide and India fourth preference dates to move for the month of June.

Q: Why does USCIS only allow the dates that are listed in the application Filing Dates chart to be used for such a short time each year?

A: This is a question best posed to USCIS, but from my discussions with them, when USCIS is making a determination on whether to allow those dates to be used for filing, they take into consideration issues such as the annual limits, the amount of numbers that have already been used, the amount of cases that have been filed and that are pending action, therefore if they believe that the resulting totals are sufficient to use all available numbers under the annual limits, they may decide that chart B,application filing dates, may no longer be used for filings. I would suggest that everyone monitor the USCIS website very carefully in the coming months to see if the application date use has any type of change. In the Visa Bulletin, we do have the information with a direct link to that site. The Visa Bulletin can be found on Travel.State.Gov

Q: Will Indians get a majority of the employment visa numbers?

A: The INA Immigration and National Act imposes a 7% per-country limit, to avoid any single country from being able to monopolize the vast majority of in the various preference categories, but it is important to remember that for the employment visa categories, §202(a)5 of the INA states that if the total demand of numbers is insufficient to be used in a particular employment category, then those numbers can be made available strictly in priority date order without regard to any normal annual limits. Therefore at this time, for example, in the employment- second preference number, India number use does exceed their per-country limit and will continue to for the year.

Q: If I have submitted all of the required documentation, why hasn’t my case been scheduled for an interview?

A: As I mentioned earlier, as with the case with the operations at USCIS offices in the U.S., the COVID-19-related issues have severely affected our ability at the overseas posts to process cases as they normally would. Therefore the scheduling of cases is largely dependent upon the conditions of each particular post and safety is a primary concern. Individuals should check the travel.state.gov website that has links to all of the U.S. embassies and consulates websites, where you may be able to find information on the particular post that is handling your case and its operational status.

Q: Do you expect that the September Final Action Dates will have surpassed the Application Filing Dates that were listed in the October Visa Bulletin?

 A: With the exception of the China employment fifth Application Filing Date and the India employment third preference date, which was subsequently retrogressed, the answer is yes. By September they will have been exceeded. Many have already been surpassed by the May Final Action Dates dates. It is important to note that the Application Filing Dates which were listed in the October 2020 Visa Bulletin are those where it was expected that the Final Action Dates would be in September. Some of those dates have advanced throughout the year and will advance as we move forward through the summer.

Q:  What are the chances that the June 2017 priority date would move in this fiscal year? Are the dates going to move?

A: With the exception of the family fourth preference category on a worldwide basis and India, there will be only limited movement of the Final Action Dates, except for Philippine family dates, which are expected to move forward. With the exception of the family fourth preference category, the amount of documentarily qualified, which we already have within the established May dates exceeds all of the family preference annual limits and that’s why future movements are likely to be limited. On the employment side, there will be very aggressive movement of the June employment dates, with the exception of China employment fifth preference, although China employment fifth preference can be expected to advance for the month of June.

Q: What are the chances of Final Action Dates reaching what is in the Filing Dates chart by the end of September?

A: If you look back at the application filing dates that were listed in the October 2020 Visa Bulletin, those application dates should be reached by September. Most of them have already been reached or far exceeded. The dates that are listed as application filing dates, any that have changed since October are those that I feel that the Final Action Dates will be in 8-12 months from the time the change was made. If I made a change in the May bulletin, we can expect that application Filing Date to have been reached by Final Action Date 8-12 months in the future.

Q: Do you expect any of the employment-based Final Action Dates for India to retrogress for EB-2/EB-3?

 A: No, the answer is a definite no. The Final Action Dates that are in place at this time will be the minimum going through the month of September. Again, I do believe that all of the dates in the employment categories will continue to move forward through the remainder of the year.

Q: When will Nepal be current?

A: Nepal’s diversity visa rank cutoff category for the month of July, will be current. Currently, all of the DV regional rank cutoffs were current for the month of June. We will be making the remaining the remaining rank cutoffs for Egypt, Nepal, and Iran; applicants will also be current effective for the month of July. This is being done in an effort to be able to maximize diversity visa number use by those applicants who have acted in a very timely manner, submitted all of the required documentation to the Kentucky Consular Center.

Q: Do you expect people born in Hong Kong to be put in the same backlog in the future as mainland  Chinese under Trump’s executive order last July?

 A: I can’t comment on that specific issue, but at this time, for the family and employment-based categories, Hong Kong remains treated as an independent country, as they have been. For the diversity visa program, please refer to the announcement for the DV 2022 registration period for specific information on how the foreign state status for Hong Kong would be applied for that program. For family-sponsored in the numerically-controlled categories and employment-based applicants, Hong Kong remains as it has been for the past several decades.

Q: How many visas will spill over from EB-4/EB-5 to EB-1/EB-2?

A: It is likely that the employment fourth preference limit will have an excellent chance of being reached this year. Any unused numbers would fall up to the employment first, as would any employment fifth preference numbers. I do at this point think that the combination of the two, expect there will be at least 10,000 numbers that would fall up to the employment first preference category.   The employment first preference category is current for all countries now, meaning there are enough numbers for everybody., so if we do not have sufficient demand to use the first preference limit, those unused first preference numbers will then fall down to employment second preference and can be used in that category. That has already started to happen and is part of the reason we have started to make aggressive movement on the China and India second preference dates.

Q: How do you determine how much the dates move for China versus India in EB-2 and EB-3?

A: As I mentioned section §202(a)5 indicates if there will be otherwise unused numbers under the annual limit, those numbers are made available strictly in priority date order. Right now the employment second preference Final Action Date for the month of May for applicants from China is December 1, 2016. The India second preference Final Action Date is August 1, 2010. Therefore, it is safe to say that any unused employment second preference numbers that are otherwise unused will go to the India second preference category.

Q: When do you think family preference priority dates come close to their filing dates?

A: Filing dates are typically 8-12 months out from where I believe the Final Action Dates will be. Because of COVID-19 issues impacting processing overseas, the family dates are not moving as fast as one might normally expect so it may take longer for some of the established family application dates to be reached. It’s important to remember that approximately 95% of the family-sponsored numerical limit is processed overseas, and approximately 85-95% of the employment-based numbers are used for adjustment of status cases by applicants who are already here in the United States You can gauge how things are happening around the world and gauge how processing is affected.

Q: So many people have been downgraded from EB-2 to EB-3 for India. Will the dates still move till January 2014?

A: That is a very good question. The amount of downgrades for second preference applicants who have essentially changed their minds and refiled under the third, to take advantage of the third preference date, will potentially impact the movement of the India employment third preference date. At this time, it is too early to tell. When we did retrogress the India third preference Application Filing Date, that was done in consultation with the USCIS headquarters and the establishment of that 2014 India date was the projected goal for September. Every effort will be made to get it to that point, and the goal is to maximize number use under the annual limits.

Q: Conservatively, how far do you believe EB-2 for China will advance in FY2021? Will you advance EB-2 China priority dates rapidly in the next couple of months.

 A: Yes, the China employment second preference date will be advanced rapidly in the coming months. It will get easily into calendar year 2017. At this moment, if I had to make a guess I would say that it will get to at least the summer of 2017.

Q: What purpose was served by making visa numbers available for over 100,000 DV 2021 selectees, when until now consulates have only issued 20 diversity visas?

A: When we have the registration period for each year’s diversity visa program, we always select enough applicants to help ensure that we can maximize number use under the annual limits. It is important to note that a lot of the people who apply for the diversity visa program, they do not follow through with the registration, even if they are selected, for whatever reason. Sometimes applicants will be refused upon their interview or may not proceed. When we had the DV 2021 registration period and made the selection of applicants, the registration period was pre-pandemic, and the selection was made last spring, but we have to proceed under the assumption that normal processing could return at some point. That allows us to potentially maximize number use under the various annual limits. If we had not registered applicants and miraculously this COVID had suddenly gone away, then we would have been in a situation where we did not have applicants for the numbers that could have been used. It is also important to remember that all of the diversity information on the registration clearly indicates that selection to participate in the program does not guarantee visa availability.

Q: The dates for EB-3 India category have been moved by five months for the May Visa Bulletin. Do you expect similar movement for the June and July bulletins?

A: Yes, I do expect that India third preference Final Action Date will once again be moved aggressively for the month of June. I think all of the June dates will be moved very aggressively, at least at the rate that we moved them for the month of May, potentially at a greater rate. Then it is possible that in July, we may slow down the movement to some extent. At this point, I think that is unlikely though.

Q: How many visa numbers have been used up until now for the EB-2 category for the FY 2021?

A: We do not provide specific number use during the course of the year. I can tell you that every effort is being made to maximize number use in all of the visa categories. USCIS offices are doing a phenomenal job of processing cases they have available to them.

Q: When will I-765V and U visa application dates move? What is the timeline for the U visa movement?

A: The U visa is not covered by the Visa Bulletin.

Q: What do you mean by the ‘documentarily qualified’ with respect to employment-based I-485 applications? At what stage of I-485 application processing, would it become documentarily eligible?

A: For a case to be ‘documentarily qualified,’ all of the required documents must have been submitted and reviewed and been determined that they meet the required criteria: any security type of background checks, medicals, everything required for the processing of the case has to be ready for the person to be considered documentarily qualified. The medical is often the last item. It is not in the documentarily-qualified package, but it is assumed that if somebody submits all of the other required documentation, that they will proceed with the medical and have that at the time of their final interview. Only the amount of applicants that have been reported to our office as being documentarily qualified at the time of the upcoming month’s determination of the Final Action Dates and rank cut offs for DV, those are the only applicants considered for processing for that month.

Q: You previously mentioned that case processing will skyrocket, however, online stats are showing that the number of EB green card processing is still very slow. Do you know why? Are you still optimistic?

A: I am still optimistic that USCIS will maximize number use to the extent of their processing capacity. It is important to remember that there was an extremely large amount of filings in the month of October. Those filings and all subsequent filings must work their way through the process before they reach the final interview status, which would result in the use of a number.  Every effort is being made under the difficult conditions and staffing restraints to maximize number use. Given the fact that the 2021 employment limit is approximately 68% higher than usual, it is unrealistic to expect all of these numbers to be used.

Q: Why have we not received the May interview dates? When will May interviews begin and when will consular posts be at full capacity?

A: Most of the overseas appointments are scheduled for the family and employment categories are scheduled by the National Visa Centers. They must work through the cases once we have made the determination of the May dates and provided that to our National Visa Center. Only then can they begin to review the cases to determine which are eligible for scheduling the visa interview and then they must also work with the various posts to see what their processing capacity may be. That scheduling on the National Visa Center’s part has become much more difficult during this COVID-19 times when there is limited post processing capacity. On the travel.state.gov website, there is information on the types of visas that are being processed based on post capacities.

Q: Why is it so hard to release the bulletin the same day every month?

 A: Our attempt is to make the determination of each upcoming month’s Final Action Dates in the bulletin, on or about the 8th of the month, depending on how that date might fall in relation to a holiday or weekend. Once we have made the determination of the dates and prepared the Visa Bulletin, and another item, which is a cable to our overseas posts announcing not only the Final Action Dates but also other visa-related information. That information has to be cleared by a number of individuals which have extremely busy schedules with other items depending on the workload, it can take some time for the entire clearance process to be completed. Every attempt is always made to get the clearance out as fast as possible and the Visa Bulletin posted quickly. In recent months, the bulletin has been coming out earlier than it had been.

Q: What happens to last year’s FB 122,000 visas that are unused in the EB category due to processing delays?

A: The FY 2020 122,000 approximately unused family numbers were added to this year’s employment limit, resulting in an approximately 262,000 annual limit. If for some reason, all 262,00numbers are not used this year, then those numbers would fall back across for potential use during the determination of the FY2022 family-sponsored annual limit. Based on past experience, we do not believe that the unused fiscal 2021 employment numbers will make any difference in the annual limit for family going into 2022 and that the normal 226,000 would be applied.

Q: Do you expect any retrogression in the DV Visa Bulletin, if the documents processed by Kentucky Consular Center progress enough?

 A: We do not believe that will be the case at this time , based on the applicant response rate to date, which has been very low in most cases compared to previous years.  There is always a chance for a corrective action of some type, retrogression of a date or making a category unavailable if subsequent events make that necessary. At this point, we do not have any reason to believe there will be a need to reimpose any kind of rank cutoffs for the DV 2021 program.

Q: With interviews of family-based not happening at the posts, would family-based F3 retrogress?

A: No, none of the family dates will retrogress this fiscal year.

Q: Do we have any guidance from USCIS on how fast they are processing EB green cards given that there is a surplus of them in this fiscal year?

 A: The information that I have from USCIS offices is that they are aggressively processing all available cases. In terms of their processing issues, you can find that information on USCIS websites. They list information on processing times, etc.

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