28 Sep 2020 Significantly Improved Wait Times for Employment-Based Immigrant Visas in October
Reeling from the adverse impact of COVID-19, Presidential Proclamations, public charge rule, and the dramatic increase of immigration fees effective on October 2, 2020, we finally have some welcoming news on the immigration front: the October Visa Bulletin shows significant improvement in the green card waiting time for employment-based immigrant petitions in most categories and for nationals in most countries.
October 1, 2020 marks the beginning of FY2021 for immigration. Because immigration law requires unused family-based visa numbers from the immediate prior fiscal year to be added to the employment-based allocation (and vice versa), there is usually more movement in the October Visa Bulletin than other months as the immigrant visa numbers are being redistributed. The drastic increase in employment-based immigrant visa numbers for FY2021 has been the writing on the wall for some time due to the significant employment-based number usage in FY20 before the COVID-19 pandemic began. This is evidenced by the stagnancy in visa number waiting time charged against nationals from China and India in all EB categories. In contrast, there has been minimal family-based number usage because of extremely limited consular processing due to the pandemic, particularly at the U.S. Embassy in Guangzhou, China. As a result, there are greater than usual numbers of immigrant visas being reallocated from family-based petitions to employment-based petitions in October 2020.
USCIS has determined that Table B “Dates for Filing of Employment-Based Visa Applications” will be used in October 2020 instead of Table A “Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preferences Cases” that has been used in 2020. Comparing Table B in October Visa Bulletin with Table A in September Visa Bulletin, we can see the following improvement that affects green card applicants in Guam and the CNMI the most:
Philippines — All employment-based immigrant visa categories are current in October 2020, an improvement of 18 months for EB3 categories. All otherwise eligible applicants can file for adjustment regardless of the priority dates.
China — the quota for EB1 category is September 1, 2020, an improvement of two years and six months. The improvement of EB2 and EB3 categories is also significant, as the quota for EB2 improved from January 15, 2016 to October 1, 2016 and for EB3 from February 15, 2017 to June 1, 2018. However, EB5 only advanced 4 months for both regional centers and non-regional centers.
India — The most significant improvement in visa numbers is for Indian nationals. While EB1 category sees an improvement of two and half years, EB2 has a two-year improvement and EB3 has six-year improvement.
The filing of adjustment applications pursuant to October Visa Bulletin begins on October 1 and ends on October 31. Whether November will keep pace with October or retrogress remains unknown until mid October, when next month’s Visa Bulletin is published. Therefore, we encourage all eligible adjustment applicants to take advantage of the October Visa Bulletin and seek professional advice as to whether you can file Form I-485 adjustment application immediately.
Authored by Nelson J. Xu