Waiting List. On January 8, 2016, the State Department published its Annual Report of Immigrant Visa Applicants as of November 1, 2015, with the total number of immigrant visa applicants (i.e., principals, spouses, and children) who are subject to the annual numerical limits and whose cases are on file at the National Visa Center. This “Waiting List” does not include individuals whose immigrant visa petitions are pending at USCIS. DOS is not aware of any efforts by USCIS to create and/or publish a similar waiting list at this time.
EB-2 India: In November, DOS predicted that EB-2 India might advance up to eight months in each of the coming months. In the February 2016 Visa Bulletin, EB-2 India surpassed DOS’ earlier prediction, advancing to August 1, 2008. This aggressive forward movement is the result of less demand in the category than that which was previously anticipated and reflects a strategy of advancing dates more aggressively earlier in the year in an effort to ensure that cases can be completed and all visa numbers used within the fiscal year. The lower demand in recent months may be attributable to fewer EB-3 to EB-2 upgrades than expected, or it may be that the last advancement sufficiently captured the bulk of the demand. Low demand may also be the result of USCIS working through a backlog of EB-2 India cases, which would give the appearance that demand has tapered off. DOS indicated that recent discussions with USCIS have led to the conclusion that the rate of demand in the coming months will reduce the rate of cut-off date movement.
EB-2 Worldwide: EB-2 Worldwide demand is slightly lower than it has recently been which may be the result of fewer EB-3 upgrades.
EB-2 and EB-3 China: The EB-2 China Final Action Date will continue to lag behind the
EB-3 China Final Action Date in February, though the surge in EB-2 demand seems to be abating. While demand was high for EB-2 China in October, demand decreased in November by about half, and was relatively low in December. Demand for EB-3 China is also on the low side, such that the first quarter usage target for this category was not met. As a result, EB-3 China continues to advance, which may spur an influx of downgrades, which could ultimately rebalance the two categories as we have seen over the past two years. DOS expects this rebalancing to occur at some point over the next few months. In the meantime, both EB-2 and EB-3 China are expected to continue to advance in March.
Coming Attractions: No special features or future predictions are expected to be published in the March 2016 Visa Bulletin. DOS may be revising some of the dates in the “Dates for Filing” chart in the April Bulletin, primarily in the family-based categories. It is likely that the EB-3 Worldwide filing date will advance if demand in that category remains low.
QUESTION FOR DOS: Do the numbers reported on the Waiting List for EB-3 Philippines reflect actual visa demand for this category? It was suggested that as many as 80% of the 28,102 individuals listed in the report will not pursue their visa applications as a result of the visa backlog and lack of priority date movement over the years. If in fact actual demand to date has been less than expected, are you considering adjusting the priority date cut-off for this category?
DOS RESPONSE: Number use for EB-3 Philippines is at a fairly reasonable level for this point in the year. We have 5,000+ applicants that have already been reported to VO, and are only awaiting forward movement of the cut-off date. The cut-off date will continue to advance, but how quickly remains to be seen.
The “lag time” does not seem to have resulted in a lack of demand. The reason for the rapid movement of this date in FY 2015 was that we had worked through the eligible demand which was reported for overseas processing, and USCIS demand (approximately 950) was extremely low during the first four months of FY 2015. During the next three months, demand from USCIS exploded (approximately 3,000), perhaps due to a decreasing processing backlog.