Immigration Updates: Visa Bulletin Predictions for August/September 2021!

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the August 2021 Visa Bulletin and goes over Charlie Oppenheim’s predictions for movement and retrogression in the family based and employment sponsored categories for August and September 2021.

Keep on watching to find out more!


What is the Visa Bulletin?

Every month, the Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin which contains important information regarding immigrant visa availability for family based and employment sponsored preference categories. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available for issuance to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date and preference category.

Essentially, the Visa Bulletin governs the availability of visas and outlines limitations. By statute, the government imposes an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000 immigrant visas (visa quota).  The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000 immigrant visas.

In what order are visas issued?

Family-sponsored and employment-based preference immigrant visas are issued to eligible immigrants in the order in which a petition on behalf of each has been filed (priority date).

Spouses and children of preference immigrants are entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration, if accompanying or following to join the principal.

What are the preference categories?

Family Preference Categories

The preference classes for allotment of family-sponsored immigrant visas are as follows:

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

  1. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:  77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
  2. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents:  23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens:  65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences

Employment-Based Preferences

The preference classes for allotment of employment-based immigrant visas are:

First:  Priority Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.

Second:  Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.

Third:  Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, of which not more than 10,000 may be provided to “*Other Workers”.

Fourth:  Certain Special Immigrants:  7.1% of the worldwide level.

Fifth:  Employment Creation:  7.1% of the worldwide level, not less than 3,000 of which are reserved for investors in a targeted rural or high-unemployment area, and 3,000 are set aside for investors in regional centers by Sec. 610 of Pub. L. 102-395.

The August 2021 Visa Bulletin: What does Charlie have to say about the availability of visa numbers?

Shortly after the publication of the August 2021 Visa Bulletin, the Department of State held a live YouTube broadcast with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, where he answered your questions regarding the availability of visas during the month of August and beyond.

Here is what Charlie Oppenheim had to say regarding visa wait times, movement, and retrogressions.

Q: I submitted all my documentation to NVC a long time ago and I confirmed on their website that everything is completed correctly. My priority date became eligible in March, but I have not yet been scheduled for my final visa interview. Why haven’t I been scheduled despite my eligibility and when can I expect to be scheduled?

Charlie Oppenheim explained that the long visa wait times are owed to country limitations and local quarantine restrictions for Consulates throughout the world. Oppenheim points out that although the NVC has continued to schedule appointments, it has been forced to warehouse a significant number of cases for certain Consular sections that have not been able to resume routine Immigrant Visa processing.

Oppenheim says that depending on the country’s local restrictions and resources, the Consular sections abroad have been providing their projected capacity for scheduling to the NVC about 30-60 days in advance. This has allowed NVC to begin scheduling appointments and getting the information out to applicants early.

Unfortunately, many Consular sections have had a very limited capacity to schedule appointments and have had to operate with fewer resources under mandatory quarantines and other types of local restrictions such as social distancing protocols.

Other than age-out cases, inter-country adoption cases, and expedite requests, the NVC is scheduling Immigrant Visa appointments for visa categories in chronological order, based on the date in which the case was deemed “documentarily qualified,” where all necessary documents have been received, and have been verified. Typically, once a case has been documentarily qualified, the NVC fills the available appointment slots in a first come, first out manner within each visa class, in accordance with each Consular section’s capacity.

Oppenheim advises applicant’s to review the NVC Immigrant Visa backlog report website for information on which applications have been processed by NVC.

The NVC and the overseas posts continue to make their best efforts to accommodate appointments under the circumstances. Applicant’s however must keep in mind that demand far exceeds the number of available appointments and substantial backlogs will continue. Scheduling will continue to be done in chronological order and overseas posts will have to catch up to schedule appointments for cases that were documentary qualified as far back as March 2020.

Q: Do you expect the India EB-3 final action date to reach January 1, 2014, application filing date which had been announced earlier this year?

Oppenheim has confirmed that the India third preference (EB-3) filing final action date will be January 1, 2014, for the month of September.

Q: Do you have any information regarding the amount of unused fiscal year 2021 family and employment numbers that there may be?

Oppenheim emphasizes that both the State Department and USCIS are doing everything possible based on their respective processing capabilities to maximize number use in both the family, employment, and diversity visa categories. Oppenheim says that there has been a significant increase in the amount of family sponsored number use at overseas posts during the past 2 months. As a result, he has lowered his previous estimate of unused family numbers slightly and now believes there will be approximately 150,000 unused family numbers.

On the employment side, Oppenheim says that USCIS’ use of employment numbers continues to increase. While it may not be at the levels many people would like, number use is increasing, and the agency continues to make its best efforts.

Oppenheim believes there could be approximately 100,000 unused employment numbers. However, it is difficult to make accurate estimates because, the COVID related issues, have had a dramatic negative impact on the processing of fiscal year 2021 cases.

The State Department and USCIS continue to do their best to maximize number use under the respective 2021 annual limits.

Q: In the last session, you mentioned that almost all application filing dates of the October 2020 visa bulletin had been reached by the final action dates in 2021. That is not true for family sponsored categories. Can you explain why?

This is true for the employment-based categories. In the employment preference categories, except for the India EB-3 application filing date (which was subsequently retrogressed) all the employment application filing dates have been reached or exceeded. The retrogressed final action date for the India EB-3 category will be reached in September.

However, Oppenheim says this is not the case in the family-sponsored applications. The difference is that approximately 95 percent of the family cases are processed overseas. The application filing dates which were announced last October were based on his hope that overseas posts would be able to provide processing and return to a somewhat normal operational status much earlier than has been possible during fiscal year 2021. Therefore, conditions have prevented him from having reached those dates.

Q: Many of the employment based final action dates have been advancing at a rapid pace this year and I am wondering if we can expect the dates to become current as happened in July 2007?

Charlie Oppenheim says that this is unlikely to happen based on the current potential level of applicant demand which could utilize numbers under both the family and employment annual limits. There is no need for additional changes to categories to make them current if they are not already current.

As a result, applicants should not expect all the employment categories to become current. Whatever is current now will remain the same until the end of the fiscal year.

Want to know more about the Visa Bulletin? Be sure to subscribe to the DOS YouTube channel and catch the next live Visa Bulletin broadcast with Charlie Oppenheim. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.

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