April Visa Bulletin: Significant Retrogression in Many Preference Categories

The April 2023 Visa Bulletin just published by the U.S. Department of State indicates that the availability of visas will retrogress (or backlog) for several immigrant visa categories. Visa availability for the following family-based and employment-based preference categories will be affected as follows:

  • F-2A (Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents): F-2A will retrogress worldwide to September 8, 2020. F-2A for Mexico will retrogress to November 1, 2018.
  • EB-2 (Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability): EB-2 will retrogress worldwide by 4 months to July 1, 2022. EB-2 for India will retrogress by 8 months to January 1, 2011, while EB-2 for China will remain at June 8, 2019.
  • EB-3 (Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers): EB-3 will remain current worldwide while EB-3 for India will remain at June 15, 2012. EB-3 for China will advance by 3 months to November 1, 2018.
  • EB-4 (Certain Special Immigrants): EB-4 will retrogress worldwide to September 1, 2018.

The retrogression in visa availability for these preference categories will mean a longer wait, potentially for several years, for individuals seeking permanent resident status whose priority date is not current. An individual’s priority date is determined by the date the immigrant visa petition (I-360, I-130, I-140) or labor certification application was filed. Unless otherwise permitted by USCIS, individuals whose priority dates are not current will not be eligible to file an application to adjust status with USCIS.

Currently, USCIS will continue to accept adjustment of status applications for all F2A beneficiaries despite the retrogression in visa availability, through at least April 30, 2023. It is recommended that F2A beneficiaries plan to file their adjustment of status applications by April 2023 as it is unknown if USCIS will continue to accept applications in May 2023. Historically, this visa preference category has been backlogged at various times, and for two years.

The sudden 4+ year retrogression for EB-4 special immigrants is particularly troubling, and unanticipated.  It is a result of new interpretations published on March 21, 2023 of how nationals of a foreign country are counted against per country quotas.  EB-4 is the preference category that governs G-4 retirees, G-4 children, SIJS (special immigrant juveniles), certain Iraqis and Afghans who worked on behalf of the U.S, religious workers, among others.  For example, this may mean that international organizational staff, who have resided and worked in the United States for 15- 20-30 years will have to wait four to five years to be eligible to apply for their green cards.  For religious workers adjusting from R-1 nonimmigrant visa status to green cards, the backlog is similarly tragic.  R-1s are only permitted to stay in the U.S. for five years, so the backlog means that many R-1s will have to leave the U.S. for at least a year or more.

The EB-2 retrogression impacts highly skilled professionals as well as those filing national interest waivers.  While Indian and Chinese nationals have been subject to long waits for visas, EB-2 immigrant visas in more recent times and until a few months ago have been available for all other nationals.  What is worrisome is that the State Department has not provided any indication as to when visas will become available again.

For applicants who properly filed an application to adjust status with USCIS and whose priority date is no longer current due to retrogression, USCIS will hold their case in abeyance until a visa becomes available. These applicants with pending adjustment applications will continue to be eligible for employment authorization and advance parole, and will be able to renew those documents. Those processing their immigrant visa applications at U.S. consulates abroad must continue to wait for a visa number to become available.

The visa backlog and further retrogression in the preference categories negatively impacts U.S. businesses, families, and individuals who had anticipated becoming U.S. permanent residents.

Congress should address the backlogs through legislative action by raising the annual immigrant visa quotas and amending how the per-country caps are applied. In the absence of legislative action, the Biden Administration should take immediate regulatory action to mitigate the negative effects of the visa backlog.


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