On April 11, 2017, the Department of State (DOS) released the May 2017 Visa Bulletin, containing dates for filing and application final action dates for the family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant visa preference categories [PDF version]. One day later, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determined that both family-sponsored and employment-based adjustment of status applicants must use the Final Action dates for filing in May of 2017 [link].
In this article, we will examine the relevant charts from both the May 2017 Visa Bulletin for individuals waiting to adjust status on the basis of an approved family-sponsored or employment-based immigrant visa petition. Please see our comprehensive article for guidance on using the immigrant visa bulletin as an adjustment of status applicant as well as how it applies to those waiting to apply for visas through consular processing [see article]. Please also see our blog for an explanation of the difference between application final action dates and dates for filing [see article].
The USCIS determined that those seeking adjustment of status based on an approved family-sponsored immigrant visa petition must use the application final action dates from the May 2017 Visa Bulletin. Notably, May will be the second month in 2017 when family-sponsored adjustment of status applicants are required to use the application final action dates instead of the more favorable dates for filing. As a result, an adjustment of status applicant will be able to file in May 2017 only if his or her priority date is before the applicable application final action date for his or her preference category and chargeability area. The following are the application final action dates for family-sponsored preference categories from the May 2017 Visa Bulletin:
|Family-Sponsored||All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed||CHINA-mainland born||INDIA||MEXICO||PHILIPPINES|
The USCIS determined that those seeking adjustment of status based on an approved employment-based immigrant visa petition must use the application final action dates from the May 2017 Visa Bulletin. The beneficiary of an approved employment-based preference petition may file for adjustment of status if his or her priority date is before the applicable application final action date. For the following chart, please note that “C” stands for “current” (meaning that immigrant visa numbers are available regardless of priority date) and “U” stands for “unavailable.” Please see our discussion under the chart for a discussion of the unavailability of immigrant visa numbers in certain categories and chargeability areas. The following chart contains the application final action dates for employment-based preference categories from the May 2017 Visa Bulletin:
|Employment-Based||All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed||CHINA-mainland born||El SALVADOR GUATEMALA HONDURAS||INDIA||MEXICO||PHILIPPINES|
|Certain Religious Workers||C||C||U||C||U||C|
|5th Non-Regional Center (C5 and T5)||C||01JUN14||C||C||C||C|
|5th Regional Center (I5 and R5)||C||June 1, 2014||C||C||C||C|
The Employment Fourth Preference Certain Religious Workers (SR) and Employment Fifth Preference Categories (I5 and R5) are scheduled to expire on April 28, 2017. The authorization for these categories was extended until April 28 on December 10, 2016. Until the President signs legislation passed by Congress extending the programs, the DOS will list the categories as “unavailable.” This is because the DOS will not be authorized to issue visas in the SR or EB5 categories unless the programs are extended. It is generally expected that the programs will be extended, either with a short stop-gap measure or as part of a longer-term spending bill funding the government through September. If the programs are extended, we will update the website and the chart in this article with information to that effect. The DOS explains that if the SR and EB5 (I5 and R5) programs are extended, the final action dates will be as follows:
- SR (“Current” for all countries except El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, which would all be subject to a July 15, 2015 application final action date);
- I5 and R5 (“Current” for all countries except China-mainland born, which would be subject to a June 1, 2014 application final action date).
Note: The Employment Fourth Preference Certain Religious Workers (SR) and Employment Fifth Preference Categories (I5 and R5) were extended through September 30, 2017. We have updated the chart accordingly.
News and Notes from the Visa Bulletin
Each edition of the DOS Visa Bulletin includes notes on immigrant visa trends and projections for the movement of application final action dates in future editions.
Visa Availability in Employment-Based Preferences
The DOS stated that demand in the employment-based first and second preference categories (EB1 and EB2) increased dramatically in the six weeks leading up to the publication of the May 2017 Visa Bulletin. Accordingly, the DOS explained that this “will require corrective action to hold number use within  annual limits.”
The DOS stated that it will establish application final action dates for both China-mainland born and India in the EB1 preference category “in the near future.” There is “a chance” that once the date is established, it “might advance slowly through September.” The dates will go back to “Current” for the October 2017 Visa Bulletin, which will represent the first Visa Bulletin of fiscal year 2018.
For the EB2 category, the DOS stated that “Worldwide, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the Philippines can be expected to become oversubscribed no later than July.” The DOS noted that “it is possible that there could be some forward movement of the established Final Action Date by September.” The final action dates for all of these countries in the EB2 category will become “Current” on the October 2017 Visa Bulletin.
Special Immigrant Visa Availability
The DOS stated that it expects to exhaust the Special Immigrant Visas allotted under the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, “not later than June 1, 2017.” Accordingly, effective June 2017, “the final action date for the SQ category for certain Afghan nationals employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan will become 'Unavailable' effective June 2017.” The DOS stopped scheduling interviews for applicants in this category on March 1, 2017. It will not issue any visas for the category after May 30, 2017.
The SQ category for certain Iraqi nationals employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq is unaffected. Accordingly, the date remains “Current.” However, the application deadline was September 30, 2014.
Finally, the DOS announced that the annual limit of 50 Special Immigrant Visas in the SI category for fiscal year 2017 was reached in December 2016. Accordingly, the final action date in this category will remain “Unavailable” until October 2017.
Beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions should monitor the Immigrant Visa Bulletin, especially if intending to apply for a visa through adjustment of status. It is also wise to retain an experienced immigration attorney throughout the entire immigrant visa petitioning and application process.