Visa Priority Date Improvements Will Continue Through March 2012 


Employment-based second preference (EB-2) visa priority dates are expected to advance again in March 2012, possibly by as much as six months according the Department of State's Visa Office. In a recent meeting with the immigration bar, the Visa Office reported that more visas are available than expected because of overestimated Adjustment of Status (AOS) usage by the USCIS. The Visa Office will have more data as the month progresses, however, given current AOS processing times (4-6 months), March will likely be the last time to get an AOS application filed and possibly approved within FY 2012, which ends at the end of September. This means that while March will bring further and significant improvement, there will likely be a "hold" on priority date movement through the Spring and Summer months, and then a retrogression or advancement as needed at the end of FY 2012.

USCIS is reportedly in agreement with the predicted priority date advancements, although significant advancements are a bit of a gamble. If the USCIS is unexpectedly inundated with AOS filings due to priority date advancement, a subsequent retrogression may become necessary. Hence, while an advancement of up to a year may be possible in March, a measured approach will likely be taken to minimize the chances of a subsequent retrogression in the fourth quarter of FY 2012.

On the EB-1 front, the Visa Office assumes low usage and continued availability through FY 2012. In fact, as many as 12,000 unused EB-1 visas may be applied to the EB-2 category, according to the Visa Office.