New cutoff dates and retrogression in employment-based immigrant visas

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employment-based immigrant visas

All employment based residency categories (Green Cards) have annual quotas on the amount of Green Cards issued in a year.  We are able to track the movement and availability of these categories through a monthly Visa Bulletin, which identifies a Priority Date.  The Priority date refers to the availability of a green card in specific categories.  Usually, priority dates for visa categories move forward in time.

However,  the demand for visas can fluctuate from one month to another, causing the cutoff date movement to slow, stop, jump or retrogress (i.e. move backwards).

Retrogression happens when more people apply for a visa in a category than there are visas available for that month. This typically occurs toward the end of the fiscal year as visa issuance approaches the annual category limitations.

The DHS Fiscal year runs from October 1, to September 30.   As we approach the last two months of the Fiscal year, it is common to have categories close-out, while the calculations of each category are tabulated, and the government reallocates or reconciles the prior year numbers: categories tend to “cap out”.

This occurred on last Thursday July 11th, as the U.S. State Department released the August 2019 Visa Bulletin.

For EB-1 category, the Priority date retrogressed from April 22, 2018, to July 1, 2016 (back by 21 months). The EB-2 category, which was “current” in the July, 2019 Bulletin, now has a cutoff date of January 1, 2017 (back 2.5 years).

Because of this retrogression, many applicants who are “current” in July will not be current in August. So, applicants planning to file I-485 must do so in July before the retrogression becomes effective. This is a time-sensitive opportunity they should take advantage of.

If you have attended your AOS interview and were waiting for your Priority Date to be current, we recommend that you proceed with the renewal of employment authorization document (EAD) and travel Permits; as we have all been reading processing delays have reached a crisis level nationwide, in all categories.

Please note that until the Visa Bulletin is issued, we cannot confirm or predict if and when your category will be current.

We are tracking and staying abreast of the matter, though it is expected that on October 1, 2019 – the first day of the year – numbers in all categories will resume their July 2019 date or possibly advance a bit.