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Springing Forward: October Visa Bulletin

The Department of State’s October Visa Bulletin reveals a significant increase in Immigrant Visa (aka green card) availability for eligible Indian, Chinese and Filipino nationals!

What Is the Visa Bulletin?
Please refer to our July Visa Bulletin blog for an overview of how the monthly Visa Bulletin works.

What’s the Big News in the October Visa Bulletin?
Green card availability has increased significantly across employment-based categories for nationals of India, China and The Philippines.  There is also increased availability for family-based categories for nationals of most countries.  .

This sudden move is part of the revision of procedures for determining green card availability by USCIS and the Department of State (DOS) which implements the November 2014 executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson. It is hoped that these revisions will better align procedures, and enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin. The goals: to ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and to minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.

In the short term, if you have an approved Immigrant Visa Petition through an employer or family member, you may become eligible to apply for a green card at least through October 31, 2015.  Dayzad Law Offices will review affected client files and then reach out shortly to plan the path to filing your green card application.

Stay tuned!

BREAKING NEWS: Premium Processing Temporary Suspension Lifted

In May, we reported that USCIS had announced that it was temporarily suspending premium processing for all H-1B Extension of Stay applications until July 27, 2015.

Effective from July 13, 2015, USCIS has lifted this suspension and has now resumed accepting premium processing requests for H-1B extension applications. This is welcome news for those H-1B extension applicants requiring more urgent action on their applications, given the current adjudication time under regular processing is around 2 to 3 months.  Premium processing may be especially helpful to applicants with upcoming international travel plans or expiring driver’s licenses.

Of note, USCIS is only accepting the new version (edition date: 01/29/2015) of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

While we have already identified those clients who were impacted by the suspension, we ask that you please contact our office if you have any concerns, or your circumstances are such that you may need to upgrade your H-1B extension application to premium processing now that the suspension has been lifted.

Supreme Court Decision Helps LGBT Immigrants!

In the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution guarantees gay and lesbian couples the fundamental right to marry throughout the United States. This protection of marriage equality is especially important to same-sex binational couples who live in the 13 states that until today banned gay and lesbian marriages– Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. 

The federal Immigration Services has recognized gay marriages and issued marriage-based green cards since 2013. However, only gay and lesbian binational couples had to jump legal hurdles to marry in one of the states that permitted gay marriages. Now binational couples of these 13 states can marry in their home state and apply for a green card. Removing this barrier is significant because compared to all same-sex couples in the United States, those in these 13 states are more likely to earn less and be racial or ethnic minorities while also being more likely to have children. 

Today, more than ever, we are resolved to bring immigration equality and justice for all the deserving immigrants in our country.

 

Surprise! The July Visa Bulletin

The Department of State has released its July Visa Bulletin, with almost no surprises… almost.

What Is the Visa Bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin is released each month (usually a few weeks in advance) and establishes which foreign nationals will become eligible to apply for U.S. permanent residence (green card) during that month, depending on three key factors – 1) their priority date; 2) which of the family-based or employment-based preference categories they are eligible for; and 3) their country of birth (with nationals of China, India, Mexico and The Philippines having a much slower path than other country nationals due to their higher demand for US immigration).

To explain briefly, there are five employment-based preference categories for green cards, with 1st preference being for extraordinary ability, outstanding professors/ researchers, and multinational managers/executives; 2nd preference for “national interest waiver” and advanced degree holders (e.g. Ph.D., Masters); and 3rd preference for professionals with a Bachelor’s degree and other eligible workers.

For family-based green cards, the situation is a little more complex but essentially immediate relatives (such as spouses of U.S. citizens), always have visa numbers available.  f. Other relatives then fall into one of the family-based preference categories: 1st preference being for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 2nd preference being for spouses and children, and unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. permanent residents; 3rd preference being for the married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and 4th preference being for the brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.

The priority date is the date of filing an Immigrant Visa Petition or labor certification (when employment-based) or Alien Relative Petition (when family-based)

What News Is in the July Visa Bulletin?

Following the release of each new Visa Bulletin, the American Immigration Lawyers Association discusses with the Department of State’s Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, Mr. Charlie Oppenheimer, to assess movement in the preference categories, and to discuss his thoughts and future projections.

For July, there is one significant change in the employment-based preference categories. As we indicated in our May 13, 2015 blog, the 3rd employment preference category for nationals of The Philippines retrogressed significantly. As of July, green cards will become unavailable completely in that category (and for other workers). Mr. Oppenheimer confirmed that this unavailability stems from a sudden demand for 2000 visa numbers in just a 2 month period in that category.

Mr. Oppenheimer warned that they are seeing a similar trend in demand worldwide in the 2nd employment preference category, but that visa numbers are expected to remain immediately available for foreign nationals in both the 1st and 2nd employment preference categories (other than nationals of China, India, Mexico and The Philippines) for the foreseeable future. He also expects continued progress in the 2nd employment preference category for Chinese nationals.  He does not expect any progress for the 2nd employment preference category for Indians until October 2015.

The ship is a little more steady for family-based visa numbers. All preference categories are advancing steadily due to more reasonable green card demand.  Forward movement is expected to continue in priority dates across all preference categories, including in the 4th family-based preference category, although for Mexican nationals in that category, the ground lost in June is not expected to be made up until at least December.

Employment-Based Visa Modernization on the Agenda

The Department of Homeland Security has added the subject of employment-based visa modernization to its regulatory agenda, sparking renewed hope for U.S. green card applicants. While the addition of an item to the regulatory agenda does not guarantee a rule change, it clearly indicates that the issue is on the radar screen.

The specific proposal on the agenda is to modernize the immigrant visa system with respect to the adjustment of status process and employment-based immigration by allowing certain approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) beneficiaries to obtain work authorization, clarifying the meaning of portable work authorization, and removing unnecessary restrictions on the ability to change jobs or progress in careers, as well as provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delays.

Currently, many beneficiaries of approved Form I-140 petitions face significant delays before they are able to apply to adjust status to U.S. permanent resident (green card holder). Primarily, the delays are experienced by nationals of China, India, Mexico, and The Philippines, who represent the highest demand for green cards. While waiting patiently to become eligible to apply for U.S. permanent residence, these workers are significantly restricted in their ability to change the circumstances of their employment, including their employer, job location, and their job itself.

This addition to the regulatory agenda follows President Obama’s release, last November, of his Memorandum for Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century. This memorandum recognized the enormous contribution of immigrants to the U.S., pointing out that immigrants represent the majority of this country’s Ph.Ds in Mathematics, Computer Science, and Engineering, and that more than a quarter of all U.S.-based Nobel Laureates in the past 50 years have been foreign-born. President Obama called for recommendations to immigrant (and non-immigrant) visa processing with a focus on reforms that, inter alia, reduce government costs, improve services for applicants, and reduce burdens on employers, and that facilitate the use all immigrant visa numbers consistent with demand.

Please contact our office directly if you would like additional information with respect to employment-based immigrant visa petitions, including how to best preserve your ability to adjust status to U.S. permanent resident when you become eligible to do so.