Every month, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) issues a visa bulletin that forwards information detailing the availability of immigrant visa numbers. The U.S. limits the number of foreign nationals who may permanently immigrate in employment-based (EB), family-based (FB), and diversity lottery (DL) categories – with subcategories within each grouping.
Permanent immigration in the U.S. is controlled by a highly complex system that’s implemented by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which allocates the limit for visa numbers within per-category and per-country classifications. Within both the EB and FB preference categories, eligibility is determined by the case’s initiation date – when the initial filing was made with either the USCIS or the DOL. This initial filing date is the case’s priority date. To remain current, an applicant’s priority date must be prior to current Final Action Dates, which are listed in the DOS’s monthly Visa Bulletins.
The current administration’s expressed preference for adopting a merit-based immigration system makes monitoring these monthly bulletins especially pertinent as we move forward.
February 2018 EB Visas
The February 2018 Visa Bulletin provides an overview of all Final Action Dates for EB visas within each country. In February – once again – the categories for Certain Religious Workers and for 5th Regional Center (for all listed countries) are classified as “U.” As such, there were no visa numbers issued in these categories and we won’t examine them further.
All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed
In February’s Visa Bulletin, the priority dates for all countries that aren’t listed on the Visa Bulletin remain – for the fifth month running – current in all categories.
China – Mainland Born
For China, the EB-1 and EB-4 both remain current; the EB-2 advances by almost two months to October 1, 2013; the EB-3 advances five months to September 15, 2014; and the Other Workers category moves ahead 10 days to February 1, 2007.
Like China, India’s EB-1 remains current (as does its EB-4). India’s EB-2 continues to inch ahead with a 16-day advancement (December 8, 2008), and both its EB-3 and Other Workers push forward a full month (December 1, 2006).
In the Philippines, the EB-1, the EB-2, and the EB-4 remain current – while both the EB-3 and Other Workers experience a two-week advancement to March 1, 2016.
Mexico and El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
These countries all remain current across all categories – with two exceptions: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras remain at December 1, 2015, for EB-4; and Mexico sees a 21-day jump to June 22, 2016, for EB-4.
The February Visa Bulletin also includes several notable projections for potential movement through April and May of 2018:
- EB-1 visas are expected to remain Current across the board.
- EB-2 visas are expected to be Current for all countries – with the exceptions that China should experience a bump of several months each month and that India should see an advancement of up to two weeks each month.
- EB-3 visas are expected to be Current for all countries – with the exceptions that China should leap forward about five months per month, that India should gain one to three months per month, and that the Philippines should advance up to one month per month.
- EB-4 visas are predicted to be Current for all countries – with the exceptions that El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras should see a boost of about three weeks per month and that Mexico should experience some “forward movement.”
While the February Visa Bulletin highlights no dramatic changes, that’s not to say there are no such changes coming. These are potentially volatile times – as they relate to employment immigration – and the DOS’s monthly Visa Bulletins are a useful tool for gauging what could be coming.