October Visa Bulletin Released

Today, USCIS released the October Visa Bulletin. The big changes are the EB1 coming current (as well as EB2 Worldwide) and a big jump forward in the F4 (siblings of a US Citizen) category for Worldwide, China and, to a lesser extent, India. Below is a summary of the developments this month:

Employment Based:

EB1: As predicted, the EB1 category went current across the Board, including for India and China.

EB2: The Worldwide category went current as well. EB-2 for China is now at May 22, 2013 and India is at September 15, 2008. China only moved forward about 1 week and India moved forward about 3 weeks.

EB3: Worldwide remained Current. India stayed at October 15, 2006. China, on the other hand jumped up to January 1, 2014.

Family Based:

F1: Worldwide, China and India all jumped to December 22, 2010. Mexico moved forward one month to March 1, 1996 and the Philippines remained at January 1, 2007.

F2A: Worldwide, India, China and the Philippines moved forward about 3 weeks to October 22, 2015. Mexico also moved forward about 3 weeks to October 15, 2015.

F2B:Worldwide, China and India moved forward about 1 week to November 9, 2010. Mexico moved forward about 1 week as well to July 15, 1996 and the Philippines staid at January 1, 2007.

F3:Worldwide, China and India moved forward about 2 weeks to July 22, 2005. Mexico moved forward about 2 weeks to April 22, 1995 and the Philippines moved forward about 1 week to February 22, 1995.

F4:Worldwide and China jumped forward about 2 years to May 8, 2004. India jumped a little less (about 1 year) to October 1, 2003. Mexico moved forward about 2 weeks to October 1, 1997 and the Philippines staid at June 1, 1994.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

April Visa Bulletin and Guidance from Charlie Oppenheim

imagesThe April Visa Bulletin was released last week as was some additional guidance from Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State.  I will go through the highlights below.

Family Based Immigration

F1 (Unmarried Sons and Daughters of US Citizens):  Most countries moved from June 1, 2010 to October 15, 2010, a fairly big jump.  The exceptions were Mexico (which moved about 1 week to May 22, 1995) and the Philippines (which moved forward one month to January 15, 2006)

F2A (Spouses and children of Permanent Residents): Most countries moved forward 1 month to June 8, 2015.  The only exception was Mexico, which also moved one month forward to May 22, 2015.

F2B (Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents): Most countries moved forward 1 month to September 15, 2010.  The only exceptions were Mexico (which moved forward 1 month to December 22, 1995) and the Philippines (which moved forward 1.5 months to June 15, 20016).

F3 (Married Sons and Daughters of US Citizens): Most countries moved forward about 3 weeks to May 15, 2005.  The only exceptions were Mexico (which moved forward about 2 weeks to January 8, 1995) and the Philippines (which moved forward about 1 week to September 15, 1994.

F4 (Siblings of US Citizens): Most countries moved forward about 2.5 months to May 8, 2004.  India moved forward only about 3 weeks to August 15, 2003.  Mexico moved forward about 2 weeks to June 15, 1997.  The Philippines moved forward about 1 month to September 8, 1993.

Charlie Oppenheim Guidance:  FB-1, FB-2 and FB-3 are expected to continue to advance at the same pace as this month in the future  because of the low rate at which applicants are becoming documentarily qualified. The FB-4 advancement in April was sufficient to meet Charlie’s target for this category for the next two to three months. This allowed the overall desired allocation level through April to be met, and should prevent excessive allocations once demand in the other categories increases those desired levels. No further advancement of FB-4 Worldwide is expected until July.

Employment Based Immigration

EB1: Current for all countries (but see guidance below for India and China)

EB2: Current for most countries.  China moved forward about 1 month to January 15, 2013 and India moved forward about 3 weeks to June 22, 2008.

Eb3: Worldwide numbers moved forward about two months to February 15, 2017. China moved forward about 5 months to August 15, 2014.  India moved forward 2 days to March 22, 2005 and the Philippines moved forward about 1 month to September 15, 2012.

Charlie Oppenheim Guidance:  

EB-1:  India has already used over 9,000 immigration visas in this category (its per country limit is 2,800) and China has used over 4,500.  There will be backlogs for both of these countries in this category in the near future.

EB-3: At some point Charlie expects there to be more demand for China EB-3 because of the downgrades from EB-2s.  However, to date, this demand has not materialized.  This is why he moved the final action date forward.  You may notice that the Date for Filing for EB-2 China is actually several months behind the Final Action Dates.  As USCIS is using the Final Action Dates, this date is irrelevant.  EB-3 Worldwide will continue to remain about 2 months behind being current.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

February 2017 Visa Bulletin Released

unknownThe February 2017 visa bulletin was released by the Department of State yesterday.  Below is a summary of the changes.

Family Based Application:

F1:  Most countries moved forward about 1 month to 1.5 months (except the Philippines, which moved forward about 2 months).  This means that most countries are now at February 22, 2010. The exceptions are Mexico (May 8, 1995) and the Philippines (December 1, 2005).

F2A: This category actually retrogressed one month across the board.  All countries are now at April 15, 2015 except Mexico which is at April 1, 2015.

F2B: Most countries moved forward about 1 month to July 8, 2010.  Mexico moved forward only about 3 weeks to May 8, 1995. The Philippines stayed at April 9, 2006 (no movement forward or backward).

F3: Most countries moved forward about 2.5 weeks to March 22, 2005.  Mexico stayed at December 15, 1994 (no movement) and the Philippines moved forward only 1 week to September 8, 1994.

F4: There was movement forward for all countries in varying degrees.  China had the biggest movement forward (2 months) to January 22, 2004.  India moved forward about 1 month to June 15, 2003.  Mexico had the smallest movement (1 week) to May 22, 1997.  The Philippines moved forward about 2 weeks to June 22, 1993.  All other areas moved forward about 2 weeks to February 8, 2004.

Employment Based Application:

EB-1:  Still current across the board.  NOTE: Charles Oppenheim has stated that there is increased usage for this category and he may have to retrogress some countries (China and India) in the near future.

EB-2:  Current for all countries except India and China.  India did not have any movement staying at April 15, 2008.  China moved forward 1 month to November 15, 2012.  NOTE:  Charles Oppenheim did indicate increased usage across the board (especially for China and India) and did indicate there may be a need to retrogress ALL countries in the coming months.

EB-3:  Most countries moved forward to October 1, 2016.  The exceptions were China, which moved forward about 3 weeks to October 1, 2013, India, which moved forward about 1 week to March 22, 2005 and the Philippines, which moved forward almost 3 months to October 15, 2011.  NOTE:  Again, Charles Oppenheim did indicate increased usage and the possibilities of retrogression.

 

We will update you when the next visa bulletin is released or if Charles Oppenheim updates his predictions as to the movement of these visa categories.  Please contact us with any questions.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

National Interest Waiver (NIW): NYSDOT overturned, new standard introduced

pic.jpgOn December 28th, 2016 the Administrative Appeals Office issued a decision in Matter of DHANASAR that has changed the landscape for National Interest Waiver cases.  This is of major importance as the National Interest Waiver is one of only two self-sponsored applications and many scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and others use this application to obtain Permanent residence in the US.  In order to explain how this decision has changed the landscape, it is first important to understand what the previous standard was

In Re: New York State Department of Transportation

Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, there are five Employment Based Immigrant Visa Levels.  Each level can have several categories.  The National Interest Waiver is laid out in the Second Level (EB-2) in section 203(b)(2) of the act.  Under subparagraph (B) of section 203(b)(2), the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive the requirement of a “job offer” (namely, that the beneficiary’s services are sought by a U.S. employer) and, “may, when the [Secretary] deems it to be in the national interest, waive the requirements of subparagraph (A) that an alien’s services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business be sought by an employer in the United States.” (See INA Section 203(b)(2)).

As can be seen, this does not provide much, if any, guidance on how USCIS should proceed in these types of cases.  USCIS did not help matters when it passed its regulations in this area.  All USCIS did was copy the language of the above statute verbatim.  It was the AAO that ended up defining how to show that your services are in the national interest.  The AAO did this in a case called In Re: New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). In that case the AAO laid out a three-part test:

  1. Show that the area of employment is of  “substantial intrinsic merit”.
  2. Show that any proposed benefit from the individual’s endeavors would be “national in scope”.
  3. The petitioner must demonstrate that “the national interest would be adversely affected if a labor certification were required for the foreign national.”

In deciding to relook at this framework, the AAO stated that they felt that there has been confusion, especially as to the third prong, about how to demonstrate the above three prongs.  In addition, the AAO felt that this confusion has caused USCIS to be too narrow in the cases it has approved.  More specifically, the AAO seemed to feel there were two main issues.  First, in terms of the national in scope, the AAO wanted to make clear that this was NOT a geographic issue. Instead, it is an issue of national importance.  Second, in looking at the third prong, too much emphasis has been placed on requiring a showing of harm to the national interest if the application is not approved as well as too much emphasis on showing influence on the field and using that as a yardstick to determine if a person meets the standard.  Because of the above, the AAO decided to reformulate the above test.

New Test in Matter of DHANASAR

Under the new framework, and after eligibility for EB-2 classification has been established, USCIS may grant a national interest waiver if the petitioner demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence:1. that the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; that the foreign national is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and (3) that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification. If these three elements are satisfied, USCIS may approve the national interest waiver as a matter of discretion.

  1. That the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance;
  2. That the foreign national is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and
  3. That, on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification. If these three elements are satisfied, USCIS may approve the national interest waiver as a matter of discretion.

Prong 1: That the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance

Looking at the first prong first, this is what the AAO states:

Evidence that the endeavor has the potential to create a significant economic impact may be favorable but is not required, as an endeavor’s merit may be established without immediate or quantifiable economic impact. For example, endeavors related to research, pure science, and the furtherance of human knowledge may qualify, whether or not the potential accomplishments in those fields are likely to translate into economic benefits for the United States.

In determining whether the proposed endeavor has national importance, we consider its potential prospective impact. An undertaking may have national importance for example, because it has national or even global implications within a particular field, such as those resulting from certain improved manufacturing processes or medical advances. But we do not evaluate prospective impact solely in geographic terms. Instead, we look for broader implications. Even ventures and undertakings that have as their focus one geographic area of the United States may properly be considered to have national importance. In modifying this prong to assess “national importance” rather than “national in scope,” as used in NYSDOT, we seek to avoid overemphasis on the geographic breadth of the endeavor. An endeavor that has significant potential to employ U.S. workers or has other substantial positive economic effects, particularly in an economically depressed area, for instance, may well be understood to have national importance.

Comparing this to the first two prongs of NYSDOT, it is clear that many more people should be able to meet these standards.  First, in terms of substantial merit, the AAO is removing any required proof about economic benefit and is willing to accept more esoteric benefits.  While we have used this in many cases, it is good to see it immortalized into the actual standard.

Second, it show national importance, the AAO is specifically allowing local impacts that affect national priorities to be used in this regard.  In other words, with such a big emphasis these days on the economy and especially on creating jobs, you can use the potential jobs created for a particular endeavor in one state to justify the national importance of the project.  This is a major broadening of this criteria.

Again, we have used these arguments already in many cases (especially the global importance equals US national importance) and it is good to see this more formally allowed.

Prong 2:  That the foreign national is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor

This prong is, perhaps, the most interesting.  According to the AAO:

The second prong shifts the focus from the proposed endeavor to the foreign national. To determine whether he or she is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor, we consider factors including, but not limited to: the individual’s education, skills, knowledge and record of success in related or similar efforts; a model or plan for future activities; any progress towards achieving the proposed endeavor; and the interest of potential customers, users, investors, or other relevant entities or individuals.

We recognize that forecasting feasibility or future success may present challenges to petitioners and USCIS officers, and that many innovations and entrepreneurial endeavors may ultimately fail, in whole or in part, despite an intelligent plan and competent execution. We do not, therefore, require petitioners to demonstrate that their endeavors are more likely than not to ultimately succeed. But notwithstanding this inherent uncertainty, in order to merit a national interest waiver, petitioners must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they are well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

It seems that, what the AAO is getting at, is that just saying you want to continue working in your field is not enough.  While you may not need a job offer, you do need a plan as to how you will continue your work in your field (be it collaborations you are planning or something similar.  It also is looking at your past successes to ensure that you will be able to continue to have success in your area of expertise.  In this way, it is also very similar to what was already required under the old standard.  It seems that the AAO is trying to open up that standard by saying that you do not have to show substantial success in the past, just a record of success, which is easier to show.

Prong 3: The petitioner must demonstrate, that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the US to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus a labor certification.

Again, as above, this is very similar to what the AAO said in NYSDOT, however, it is also much broader.  Under the old standard, this was phrased in the negative, you had to show that the National Interest would be adversely affected if you were not granted the waiver of the job and labor certification requirement.  The AAO felt this was too restrictive:

In performing this analysis, USCIS may evaluate factors such as: whether, in light of the nature of the foreign national’s qualifications or proposed endeavor, it would be impractical either for the foreign national to secure a job offer or for the petitioner to obtain a labor certification; whether, even assuming that other qualified U.S. workers are available, the United States would still benefit from the foreign national’s contributions; and whether the national interest in the foreign national’s contributions is sufficiently urgent to warrant forgoing the labor certification process. We emphasize that, in each case, the factor(s) considered must, taken together, indicate that on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.

Under the old standard, you had to show why you would help the national interest to “a substantially higher degree” than an available US worker.  Under this new standard, you need to show that the US would still benefit from your work (or, at least, this is part of the test).  Again, this new standard helps broaden the scope of the NIW and helps many people who may not have qualified previously, to now, at least, have an argument for qualifying.

Conclusion

Overall, the AAO tried to open up the NIW to people who it felt should qualify, but whom USCIS was not qualifying under the old standard.  While the intent of the AAO is clear it remains to be seen how USCIS will interpret this new standard.  We are hopefully that they will interpret it in the spirit in which it was annunciated, that is liberally. We are also hopeful that this new standard will especially help those in the areas of international relations, scientists whose fields do not garner large number of citations or who have moved to non-traditional jobs as well as the aforementioned business people and entrepreneurs.  We will certainly update you as we learn more about how USCIS will implement this new standard.

Lastly, please keep in mind that, even if you filed your NIW case prior to this ruling, this is now the rule that USCIS will apply in your case.  Please also remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

India and China heading towards EB-1 Backlogs – November Check-In With Charlie Oppenheim on Visa Availability

Unknown.jpegThe American Immigration Lawyer’s Association recently met with Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State about the upcoming year and what the trends look like in terms of immigrant visa availability.  Here is what Charlie said in regards to employment-based visas:

EB-1:

First, in terms of EB-1 Employment-based visas, India has ALREADY surpassed its country allocation for EB-1 visas and is currently using visas otherwise allocated to other countries.  China, while not quite as bad, is also coming close to using all its allocation.  This means that both India and China will be backlogged in the EB-1 category, and probably relatively soon.  EB-1 demand for all other countries is not as great, and there should be no backlogs for All other countries in this category

EB-2 and EB-3:

The final action date for EB-3 China is approximately ten months ahead of the EB-2 China final action date. This has actually been the case for the last few years and tends to spur greater demand for EB-3 China based on requests to “downgrade” from EB-2 China by filing a new I-140 petition based on an existing certified EB-2 labor certification.   Forward movement of the China EB-3 date has been limited because of the expected significant influx of “downgrade” demand, which resulted in retrogression in earlier years. If such demand fails to materialize in the coming months the date will begin to advance at a faster pace.

EB-2 India continues to receive significant demand, which Charlie attributes to EB-3 upgrades.Charlie hopes that this final action date will get into 2009 at some point this fiscal year, but  does not yet have a sense as to how quickly that might occur. There continues to be significant demand for EB-2 Worldwide, and if that continues, it will leave little, if any, otherwise unused numbers to reallocate to EB-2 India. In past years, EB-2 India has often benefitted from the addition of thousands of otherwise unused numbers not required for use by other countries. In terms of EB-3 India numbers, Charlie expects India to hold in January, advance up to one week in February, and hold again for a month or two before advancing modestly again.

Demand has also not abated for EB-2 Worldwide/Mexico/Philippines, causing Charlie to speculate that a date will be imposed no later than July. Charlie has been waiting for some time for demand to be generated in EB-3 Worldwide, which Charlie has been waiting for some time for demand to be generated in EB-3 Worldwide, which has generally been current for more than a year. Charlie is watching demand very closely, and though he has started to see an increase, it is unclear whether this demand will be sustained.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

October 2016 VIsa Bulletin: Forward Movement for All

unknownThe Department of State released the visa bulletin for October 2016 recently. Below is a summary of movement and changes.

Family Based Immigrant Visa Numbers

F1 – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of US Citizens: This category moved forward about 1 week to September 22, 2090 for every country except Mexico (which moved forward 1 week to April 1, 1995 and the Philippines (which moved forward 1 week to August 1, 1995).

F2A – Spouses and children of Permanent Residents: All countries moved forward around 1 month, Mexico moved forward about 3 months to December 1, 2014. And the rest of the World moved forward about 5 weeks to December 22, 2014

F2B – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: Most of the world moved forward about 5 weeks to March 15, 2010. Mexico moved forward only 2 weeks to October 1, 1995 and the Philippines moved forward 1 month to January 1, 2006

F3 – Married Sons and Daughters of US Citizens: Most of the world moved forward about 3 weeks to December 22, 2004. Mexico moved forward about 1 week to November 22, 1994 and the Philippines moved forward about 3 weeks to July 8, 1994

F4 – Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens: China moved forward 4 months to May 1, 2003. India jumped just over 1 year to December 1, 2002. Mexico moved forward a couple weeks to May 1, 1997. The Philippines moved forward about 6 weeks to April 15, 1993. The rest of the world moved forward about 1 month to November 1, 2003

Predictions for coming months:

There should be forward movement on all categories in the next several months of about 2-6 weeks.

Employment Based Immigrant Visas

EB-1: As stated previously, this became current for everyone for October.

EB-2: Again, as we stated previously this became current for Worldwide numbers, Mexico and the Philippines. It moved forward to February 15, 2012 for China and to January 15, 2007 for India.

EB-3: Moved forward 1 month for Worldwide and Mexico to June 1, 2016. China jumped forward to January 22, 2013 (putting the EB-3 category ahead of the EB-2 for China). India Moved forward about 1 month to March 1, 2005 and the Philippines moved forward about 5 months to December 1, 2010.

Predictions for the Coming Months:

For EB-2s the Department of State sees China and India moving forward about 3 months (maybe 4 months for India) in the coming months. Worldwide and Mexico should remain current.

For EB-3s, they still feel that for the Worldwide numbers, demand may cause them to backlog (however this did not occur at all last year, and they thought it would then as well), but we will have to see. For China, EB-3 should move forward about 3 months. It will move forward only about 1 week for India and about 3 weeks for the Philippines.

Checkin With Charlie Oppenheim on Visa Numbers

Charlie Oppenheim, the officer at the Department of State in charge of visa numbers and the Visa Bulletin, recently released an update to his predictions for the upcoming months. Below is a summary of some of that update.

Family Based Visa Numbers

According to Charlie, in September most of the family-based categories will likely hold or retrogress from where they are in August. Only F-4 Worldwide has the potential to advance in September. Charlie expects a full recovery from retrogressions in all of the family-based categories in October, with the exception of F-4 China and F-4 India which will take some time. Beginning in November 2015, beneficiaries of F-4 China and F-4 India started responding to NVC Agent of Choice letters in larger numbers, which has given Charlie better visibility into the demand in these categories, but ultimately resulted in the retrogression of these cut-off dates.

It should be noted that when we state that there will be a “full recovery” Charlie is not saying that the categories will become current, but that they will go back to their pre-August 2015 dates.

Employment Based Visa Numbers

CHINA:

The Final Action date of January 1, 2010 that was imposed in June for both EB-2 and EB-3 China remains the same in August with no forward movement in either of these categories expected this fiscal year (which ends on September 30, 2016).

EB-2 should recover partly in October, 2016 and should fully recover to its previous dates by the end of this calendar year.

INDIA:

EB-3 India should advance modestly into a 2005 Final Action date in September. EB-2 India will continue to track one week ahead of the EB-3 India Final Action date in September.

EB-2 will advance in October 1, 2016 with the new fiscal year, and should fully recover by December of this year.

WORLDWIDE:

EB-3 Worldwide has been hovering close to “current” for some time, and is expected to do so through at least October.

Eb-2 was retrogressed in August to February 1, 2014 with the hope of holding number use to within the EB-2 annual limit. That date should hold in September and is expected to fully recover to “current” in October.