Visa Bulletin Priority Date Movement Question


Question: A member of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association asked Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, the following question about what data is shared between USCIS and the Department of State regarding visa number usage and whether efforts are being made to improve the information sharing process to make priority date movement more predictable?

Answer: Charlie [Oppenheim] meets monthly with the USCIS Ombudsman and the agencies are in discussion regarding USCIS providing additional data to the Visa Office. No further details are available at this time, other than to say that these meetings continue to provide positive results in the exchange of data. Charlie favors as much data transparency as possible since it enables the Visa Office to better predict immigrant visa demand within each category, enabling the State Department to more effectively manage the cut-off dates.

The State Department uses a “qualifying date” system which provides the information required to minimize/prevent erratic movement in the family-sponsored cut-off dates. The National Visa Center uses this system to send out “Agent of Choice” letters requesting that applicants assemble/submit certain required information, based on expected cut-off date movement during a specific period of time. The end result allows for a more accurate comparison of targeted number use versus the total number of applicants who could be scheduled for final processing, during the determination of the monthly cut-off dates.

In Plain English: The Visa Bulletin is a system designed to notify family-based petitioners of eligibility to adjust status to lawful permanent residence. Historically, family-based categories have much longer wait times than employment-based categories. For example, the priority date for U.S. citizens filing for their unmarried sons and daughters from Mexico is November 15, 1994. Often, the size of a family will increase in the 20+ years it must wait in processing. Obviously this has serious implications on the nuclear families of those who want to immigrate legally to the United States in a family-based category. For this reason, the Visa Bulletin is more accurate for family-based categories and somewhat erratic for employment-based categories.

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