As published in the Immigration Daily on April 21, 2023

The May 2023 visa bulletin generally had good news for family-based cases (FB) and bad news for employment based cases (EB). A quick summary of relevant developments of final action dates and dates for filing charts revealed the following:

FB final action dates: Good news that F-3 is generally (“generally” means with exception and the author would rather use it than “rest of the world” to describe the movement in categories except where particular countries are mentioned) moving up three weeks to 12/8/08 and F-4 three weeks to 4/8/07. F-2A remains backed up at 9/8/20. FB dates for filing: F-1 moves four months and three weeks to 1/1/17, F-3 three months to 2/8/10, and F-4 1 ½ months to 2/1/08. EB final action dates: Bad news that EB-2 worldwide drops back four months to 2/15/22 and EB-3 from current to 6/1/22. Good news for China is that EB-3 moves six months to 4/1/19, EB-3W 6 months to 4/15/15, and EB-5 2 months to 9/8/15. EB dates for filing: EB-3 worldwide goes from current to 5/1/23, but China benefits moving up four months to 6/1/19.

It appears that demand for US immigration through the employment categories is increasing in many countries of the world prompting a series of warnings by the Department of State in the May bulletin:

  • China and India EB-1 are already at 2/1/22 final action dates and 6/1/22 dates for filing, and Visa Office says that the category for the two countries will “most likely” retrogress in final action dates in coming months because of increased worldwide demand. [This affects both filing and approving of cases as USCIS is only accepting the final action dates chart lately].
  • Further retrogression in the EB-2 category for the rest of the world was necessary to keep number use within the FY-2023 annual limit and the situation will be continually monitored with any necessary adjustments to be made accordingly.
  • India is facing further retrogression in EB-2 and EB-5 final action dates as early as next month to keep visa issuances within annual per country limits – that every effort will be made in October to return the final action dates to at least the final action dates announced for April.
  • Retrogression in EB-3 worldwide was necessary to hold number use within the limits with the same prognosis that the situation will be continually monitored and any necessary adjustments made accordingly.
  • EB-3W will likely retrogress worldwide in coming months.

There are of course only a finite number of immigrant visa numbers available for the preference categories annually – 226,000 for FB and 140,000 for EB cases. The forward movement of the FB categories which have been held static by the Department of State for many months is welcome to the many who have been waiting to reunite with their loved ones, but is unwelcome to those in the EB categories who have been helped in recent years by the crossover in unused FB numbers which can be used by them. The number of available visa numbers has unfortunately become a zero-sum game between FB and EB categories.

Only one fair and equitable solution is available, and that is increasing the number of visa numbers available for both FB and EB categories (FB because of the unconscionable number of years that most intending immigrants must wait to enter the US and EB because they fill areas of need in the country). Unfortunately, that is a pipe dream given the present lack of cooperation between political parties and concerns over the surge of migration at the Southwest border.

So we appear to be headed into a situation wherein FB cases will begin to be processed faster as US consulate posts bounce back to fuller capacity to set up interviews for cases, and EB cases will generally take a longer period of time to complete.