The issuance of the U.S. Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin for October 2015 brought excitement to many eligible immigrants. For the first time ever, the visa bulletin introduced a new chart of “Visa Application Filing Dates” in the Family-based and Employment-based Visa Preference categories. Until the October Visa Bulletin, the monthly report included only a chart of cut-off dates reflecting visa availability of each of the visa preference categories, as determined by the Visa Office of the U.S. Department of State. Unless an applicant’s “priority date” preceded the announced cut-off date, the applicant could not initiate the final step in the green card process by filing the Application for Adjustment of Status (“I-485”) or an Application for Immigrant Visa (“DS-230”).
The October 2015 Visa Bulletin changed that by introducing a new concept. As part of the government’s effort to implement the “streamlining” portion of the President’s November 2014 Executive Action on Immigration, the State Department created two new charts – one each for the Family-based and the Employment-based visa categories – with Application Filing Dates for each of the preference categories. The new charts provide eligible immigrants with the opportunity of initiating the final steps in the green card at an earlier point in time – before reaching the cut-off date for visa availability – thereby opening the door to interim benefits such as employment authorization and other procedural advantages.
The October Visa Bulletin included Application Filing Dates that would have permitted eligible immigrants, especially those from India facing decade-long wait times, to begin the final stage of the green card process. This possibility was met with enthusiasm by thousands, who could now apply for employment authorization for spouses or benefit from “job flexibility.” Many newly-eligible immigrants retained attorneys, scheduled medical exams, prepared documents and otherwise prepared for October 1, when they could finally submit the application.
However, in a few short days, their hopes were dashed by an announcement from the State Department that it was withdrawing the Visa Bulletin and instead issuing a new Visa Bulletin with far less advantageous Application Filing Dates. To view the new, substitute, Visa Bulletin, click here. Tens of thousands of eligible immigrants who thought they were going to get interim benefits suddenly learned that the rug had been pulled out from beneath them. For a news report on the State Department’s action, click here.
A class action lawsuit ensued, seeking class certification and the reinstatement of the first-issued Visa Bulletin. Following a hearing on October 7, 2015, the District Court in Seattle denied the request for a Temporary Restraining Order rule on grounds that the State Department had set forth a reasonable justification for its action. In spite of the denial of the TRO, the underlying lawsuit remains pending. To view a copy of the Court’s decision, click here.
For now, the substitute Visa Bulletin is in place and includes Visa Application Filing Dates for EB-2-eligible immigrants from India of July 1, 2009 and for EB-3-eligible immigrants of July 1, 2005. Affected persons are urged to stay abreast of this matter by checking the Monthly Visa Bulletin. For additional information or questions, please contact us.