December 2017 Visa Bulletin

Written by Alexander J. Segal on

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Introduction

On November 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) released its immigrant visa bulletin for December 2017. The immigrant visa bulletin contains charts showing when immigrant visas will be available for beneficiaries of the employment-based and family-sponsored preference categories in December 2017 [PDF version]. One week later, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determined that beneficiaries of approved family-sponsored petitions who are applying for adjustment of status may use the filing dates in December, while their employment-based counterparts must use the final action dates [link].

In this article, we will reproduce and examine the relevant filing date and final action date charts from the December 2017 Visa Bulletin. We will also look at news and notes on visa bulletin trends included in the DOS release.

December 2017 Visa Bulletin

To learn about using the visa bulletin as an adjustment of status applicant, please see our full article on the subject [see article]. Please see our full article on the difference between the filing date and final action date charts to learn about that issue [see article].

We also have a compendium of our visa bulletin articles for the current and previous fiscal years [see article].

Family-Sponsored Cases

The USCIS determined that the beneficiary of an approved family-sponsored preference petition may use the dates for filing in December 2017. This is the third consecutive month in which family-sponsored beneficiaries have been able to use the filing dates. In order for the beneficiary of a family-sponsored preference petition to apply for adjustment of status in December 2017 (if otherwise eligible), he or she must have a priority date that is earlier than the applicable filing date for his or her preference category and chargeability area. The filing date for a family-sponsored case will generally be the date on which the immigrant visa petition was properly filed with the USCIS.

The following is the list of filing dates for family-sponsored cases, courtesy of the USCIS:

Dates for Filing Family-Sponsored Adjustment of Status Applications

Family-Sponsored All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
F1 01JAN12 01JAN12 01JAN12 01NOV96 01OCT07
F2A 01NOV16 01NOV16 01NOV16 01NOV16 01NOV16
F2B 01SEP11 01SEP11 01SEP11 01JAN97 01SEP07
F3 01DEC05 01DEC05 01DEC05 01OCT95 15JUN95
F4 15NOV04 15NOV04 22JUN04 08FEB98 01MAR95

For your reference, the following chart, courtesy of the DOS, lists the final action dates for family-sponsored cases in December 2017. The final action dates represent the dates on which the DOS may take final action on applications for an immigrant visa. However, it is important to reiterate that family-sponsored beneficiaries seeking adjustment of status (as opposed to an immigrant visa from abroad) must use the above filing dates in December 2017.

Final action dates for family-sponsored preference cases

Family-Sponsored All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
F1 01FEB11 01FEB11 01FEB11 01APR96 01JAN05
F2A 22DEC15 22DEC15 22DEC15 15NOV15 22DEC15
F2B 22NOV10 22NOV10 22NOV10 22JUL96 01JUL06
F3 08SEP05 08SEP05 08SEP05 22MAY95 08MAR95
F4 08JUN04 08JUN04 22NOV03 08OCT97 01AUG94

Employment-Based Cases

The USCIS determined that the beneficiary of an approved employment-based preference petition must use the application final action dates from the December 2017 Visa Bulletin. The beneficiary of an approved employment-based petition may apply for adjustment of status (if otherwise eligible) if his or her priority date is earlier than the applicable final action date for his or her preference category and chargeability area. In cases where labor certification is required, the priority date will generally be the date on which the labor certification application was approved by the U.S. Department of Labor. For cases for which labor certification is not required, the priority date will generally be the date on which the employment-based petition was properly filed with the USCIS.

The following chart, courtesy of the USCIS, lists the final action dates for employment-based cases from the December 2017 Visa Bulletin:

Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Adjustment of Status Applications

Employment-Based All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born El SALVADOR GUATEMALA HONDURAS INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st C C C C C C
2nd C 01JUL13 C 01NOV08 C C
3rd C 08MAR14 C 15OCT06 C 15JAN16
Other Workers C 01JUL06 C 15OCT06 C 15JAN16
4th C C 08NOV15 C 22APR16 C
Certain Religious Workers C C 08NOV15 C 22APR16 C
5th Non-Regional Center (C5 and T5) C 15JUL14 C C C C
5th Regional Center (I5 and R5) C 15JUL14 C C C C

Please note that “C” indicates that the priority date for the applicable preference category and chargeability area is “current” for December 2017, meaning that the beneficiary of an approved employment-based petition in that section may apply for adjustment of status in December 2017 (if otherwise eligible) regardless of his or her priority date.

Scheduled Expiration of SR, I5, and R5 Categories

First, the categories for Employment Fourth Preference Certain Religious Workers (SR) and Employment Fifth Preference (I5 and R5) immigrant investors are scheduled to expire on December 8, 2017. Accordingly, unless these categories are extended, the DOS will not be permitted to issue visas after December 8, and the USCIS will not be permitted to take final action on adjustment of status cases after December 8. In the event that the categories are not extended, the final action dates will change from “Current” to “Unavailable.”

Because the SR, I5, and R5 categories are typically extended along with a new budget, this issue has come up routinely over the past few years. As we noted at the time, authorization for the programs did in fact lapse for a short period last April [see blog]. It is unclear whether Congress will extend the programs before December 8, but it is highly likely that they will be extended at some point during December. We will update the website with more information as it becomes available.

Retrogression of Final Action Dates in Philippines Family-Sponsored Categories

The DOS noted that due to its policy of rapidly advancing F1 and F2B final action dates for the Philippines over the past year and an increase in demand for visas in these categories, “it has become necessary to retrogress each of those final action dates in an effort to hold number use within the annual limits for these preference categories.” Those affected may consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance.

SI Special Immigrant Translator Category Availability

The DOS explained that it held the December Final Action Date for the SI category at April 1, 2010. The annual limit of 50 Special Immigrant Visas in the SI category remains expected to be reached early in this fiscal year, at which time the Final Action Date will shift to “Unavailable.”

The SQ Special Immigrant Visa category for certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan is unaffected, and it has a priority date of “Current” for December 2017.

Conclusion

Beneficiaries of approved preference petitions should monitor the immigrant visa bulletin for guidance on when an immigrant visa number will become available. This is especially important for those who plan to apply for adjustment of status. Those with questions about the visa bulletin, final action date retrogression, or other issues pertaining to filing for a visa should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case-specific analysis.