The Department of State recently published the January 2018 Visa Bulletin. Last month we took a closer look at the December 2017 Visa Bulletin, so let's examine how this month's bulletin holds up against it, and what changes the new year brings to companies waiting to file employment-based Green Card applications for their foreign national employees.
Explaining Visa Bulletins
Every case for a visa applicant has critical attendant dates that determine whether the petitioner will obtain a visa and if so, when they will obtain that visa. The timeline related to obtaining a U.S. work visa continually evolves, and the Visa Bulletins showcases this evolution. An immigration case’s initial eligibility is determined by its priority date, which reflects its filing date with either the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the Department of Labor (DOL).
This priority date serves as a case’s placeholder in the work visa queue. To remain current, a visa petition must have a priority date that falls before the final action date listed in the current month’s Visa Bulletin. Each month’s forthcoming Visa Bulletin provides visa applicants with critical information related to their visa bids.
The route to obtaining a work visa is directly related to being in a visa category that’s marked as current in the monthly bulletin. If a category is marked with a C for current, it means there are enough visas available within that specific category (and from that specific country of chargeability, or country of origin) for each approved petitioner.
To break it down more precisely, this means that when a qualified visa petitioner finds a C in the Visa Bulletin for their visa category and country of origin, that petitioner qualifies to be issued that category of visa. If the petitioner instead finds a date listed in the Visa Bulletin, it means their priority date must precede that posted final action date to qualify for visa issuance.
Before looking into the countries and their categories listed on the bulletin, let's take a closer look at the categories for Certain Religious Workers and 5th Regional Center. In these two categories, all countries show the letter “U”, which means no numbers were authorized for issuance. Therefore, those two categories will not be addressed in detail below.
All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed
As discussed in December 2017 Visa Bulletin, priority dates have remained current in all categories over the past four months. This month, they remain current and do not retrogress. As a comparison, on the January 2017 Visa Bulletin, the priority dates for the 3rd category as well as the “other workers” category retrogressed to August 2016.
China - Mainland Born
- All categories that were current in December 2017 do remain current in January.
- The priority dates for the 2nd, 3rd, “other workers”, and 5th Non-Regional categories all progress between one week and five months.
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
One year ago, on the January 2017 Visa Bulletin, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were added to the bulletin and therefore were no longer included in the section of countries that were not specifically listed. After all categories either remained current or progressed on last month’s bulletin, we see little change in the January 2018 Visa Bulletin.
- The 4th category progresses by one month, while all other categories remain current, continuing the steady upward trend we have been seeing over the past year.
India has been the group with the most distant priority dates on the bulletin, and this status remains unchanged in January 2018.
- While all categories that were current in December 2017 remain current in January 2018, the 2nd, 3rd and “other workers” categories, which have shown little to no progression in recent months, progress by a few weeks each.
As noted in our analysis of the December 2017 Visa Bulletin, priority dates for individuals born in Mexico have shown little fluctuation over the past year.
- The priority date for the 4th category progresses by less than two months, which shows a steady upward trend in the priority dates for individuals born in Mexico.
The priority dates for the 3rd and “other workers” category have been progressing steadily over the past twelve months after having retrogressed by nearly two years on the January 2017 Visa Bulletin, they continue to progress this month, although only by a few weeks. However, it is noteworthy that the priority dates for the 3rd category have progressed by almost 5 years over the past twelve months.
2018: The Year of Surprises?
Overall, the January 2018 Visa Bulletin brings little to no major surprises, which might be a big surprise itself. In the light of the current administration’s efforts to move towards a merit-based immigration system in the U.S., any changes, even minor ones, can be an implication of the future developments of priorities dates, as well as of the future of the bulletin itself.
It is therefore important to acknowledge that the developments on the January 2018 Visa Bulletin were very minor overall, and stand in contrast to last year’s January Visa Bulletin. In January 2017, not only was a whole new set of countries added to the bulletin, almost all priority dates either remained current or retrogressed, some of them drastically.
Should you have any questions about how this impacts your business or employees, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com or hear from our clients about how we've helped them navigate their immigration compliance.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.