The US Department of State (DOS) has issued a practice pointer for the October and November 2023 Visa Bulletins.
The Visa Bulletin provides the availability of immigrant visas for legal permanent residency (the “green card”) for the coming month. Within each category, the Visa Bulletin provides a Final Action Chart with priority dates considered current and available and a Dates for Filing Chart with anticipated priority dates during the fiscal year.
Each month, USCIS announces which chart it will use for filing the Form I-485 application to adjust status for legal permanent residency. For October and November 2023, USCIS announced that the Dates for Filing Chart will be used for accepting family and employment-based Forms I-485. The November 2023 Visa Bulletin is the same as the October 2023 Visa Bulletin, except as specifically discussed below.
Family-Based Cases Stagnate & No Concurrent Filing of F2A Cases
Between September 2023 and November 2023, visa availability remains the same in the family-based categories, except for F2A, spouses, and children of permanent residents.
Until recently, the F2A category was current for the concurrent filing of the Form I-130 immigrant visa petition and the Form I-485 application to adjust status, but that trend ended in fiscal year 2023 (FY2023). To begin FY2024, there is now a cutoff date of September 1, 2023 for the F2A category, which means that the Form I-485 may not be filed simultaneously with the I-130.
Continued Retrogression for Most Employment-Based Applications
The Visa Bulletins for October and November 2023 continued the retrogression that began in May 2023 for employment-based applications. Without precedent, the final action dates for EB-2 and EB-3 worldwide categories start the fiscal year with cutoff dates. EB-3 worldwide advanced by five months to December 2021, but EB-2 essentially stagnated, since it advanced only seven days to July 15, 2022. EB-1 worldwide remained current, but it regressed for nationals of China and India. The same dates remain in place for November.
The October 2023 Visa Bulletin does not explain this retrogression, but USCIS has announced that based on a significant number of employment-based adjustment of status applications in its inventory and continuing demand, it is unable to accept substantial additional filings for the beginning of FY2024. We should not expect visa availability to advance beyond those in the Dates for Filing Chart during FY2024.
The EB-4 Special Immigrants
The EB-4 category is for “certain special immigrants” and includes certain religious workers (SR) and special immigrant juveniles (SIJs). The EB-4 category advanced by approximately six months in the October 2023 Visa Bulletin Dates for Filing Chart to a priority date of March 1, 2019, with a final action date of January 1, 2019. Further, since the SR category was scheduled to expire on September 29, 2023, the Final Action Dates chart shows it as Unavailable or “U.” However, on September 30, 2023, President Biden signed legislation (H.R. 5860), which extended the SR category through November 17, 2023, which circumvents the program’s sunset.