As we approach the three-quarter mark of what has been a tumultuous year in our nation’s capital, it seems like as good a time as any to examine the current landscape as it pertains to employment-based immigration. Specifically, what does the green card process look like from a procedural standpoint as the summer months draw to a close?
A quick look at the most recently published quarterly report through June 30 reveals that applications were usually certified by DOL within three months or less (excluding those selected for audit review). These figures also reveal disproportionate productivity on the part of certifying officers on June 29 and 30. Nothing like padding your numbers as the quarterly report deadline creeps up on you!
Processing times published on the iCert portal suggest that this time frame remains in place at the time of writing. As of Aug. 31, certifying officers were finalizing applications submitted during the month of June, while redeterminations were being made on requests submitted during the month of August.
Next month’s start of the federal government’s new fiscal year will bring welcome relief for several categories of immigrant workers. The recently issued Visa Bulletin for October 2017 confirms that both Indian and Chinese citizens will see the restoration of current availability for visas under the EB-1 category, after seeing retrogression to January 2012 for the last four months of the 2017 fiscal year. Similarly, nationals of all other countries will enjoy current availability in the EB-2 category, after seeing retrogression to as far back as April 2015 during the months of August and September.
I-140 Processing Times
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) most recently published case processing times, which was last updated on July 31, the Nebraska Service Center is taking around five months to adjudicate most types of I-140 petitions. However, those seeking a National Interest Waiver (NIW) face processing times of close to one year.
To add insult to injury, NIW petitions remain the only category of I-140 petition for which Premium Processing is unavailable. The message appears to be: we welcome the strong benefits your skills bring to our nation’s interest, just wait a year or so before sharing them with us.
The Texas Service Center, on the other hand, offers relatively consistent processing times ranging from four to six months across all categories according to the USCIS website, including five months for NIW cases.
Employers should keep in mind that these published figures are not always up-to-date or entirely accurate. Premium Processing remains a valuable tool, particularly for those who will be seeking immigrant visas at a consular post. For those employees already based in the U.S. who are transitioning from a nonimmigrant status, make sure you and your immigration counsel have contingencies in place to minimize the risk of gaps their employment eligibility.
A word of warning: The Nebraska Service Center currently experiencing significant delays (in excess of 100 days) in the issuance of interim Employment Authorization Documents for pending Adjustment applicants. Source: My inbox when trying to follow up on a client’s expedite request. The previously sacred 90-day regulatory time frame may no longer be an adequate cushion.
Should you have any questions about how this impacts your business or employees, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.