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Green and Spiegel - An Immigration Law Firm - United States
Aug 22, 2016

U.S. Department of State Issues Final Visa Bulletin of Fiscal Year; All Applicants Must Use “Final Action Dates” Charts for AOS Filing

Matthew Galati

Late last week the U.S. Department of State issued the Visa Bulletin for September 2016, the final visa bulletin of the fiscal year. The visa bulletin showed mostly modest movement for the upcoming month compared to August. Significant changes are expected for October, which brings a new fiscal year.

By way of background, the Immigration and Nationality Act caps the amount of family-based immigrants at 226,000 and employment-based immigrants at 140,000 per fiscal year, subject to slight variation due to unused visa numbers from the prior year. Given that demand for visas outpaces the supply in the majority of categories, the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs must determine monthly cutoff dates for each oversubscribed preference classification and oversubscribed country of chargeability, based on petition priority dates. The Bureau cannot allow for the issuance of more visas than those statutorily authorized. Each October 1 brings a new fiscal year and a new allotment of visas. Thus, for those seeking to immigrate in oversubscribed categories, September historically brings the most pessimistic news while priority dates have the possibility of advancing dramatically for the better in October.

Further, starting last year, the Visa Bulletin began publishing two sets of charts for each preference type: Final Action Dates and Dates for Filing. Those with cases current within the Dates for Filing chart may initiate the immigration process with the National Visa Center following petition approval, however an immigrant visa may not be issued until the Final Action Date is current. On the other hand, USCIS controls when an Adjustment of Statusapplication may be filed based on its own discretion. For September 2016, both Family and Employment based filings must use the respective Final Action Dates chart to determine when Form I-485 may be filed.

Many in the industry are optimistic that the new fiscal year will bring forth significant advancements. For example,in July the Bureau noted that EB-1 India and China would likely retrogress – a prediction that came true in August and September – but that both countries would again be current in October. Similarly, many have noted that EB-5 China has not advanced in several months and the new visa numbers available in the coming fiscal year bring optimism that visa wait times will become more predictable.

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