As published in the Immigration Daily on June 14, 2023

  1. July 2023 visa bulletin and USCIS chart acceptance quick summary.

The number of changes without counting diversity visa distribution is minimal in advances, and features a 3 ½ year retrogression to the India EB-3 final action date. A quick summary of family-based (FB) and employment based (EB) changes from June reveals the following: FB dates for filing – F-1 moved up nine months to 9/1/17 for all countries except Mexico and the Philippines; F-2A stays current; F-3 moves up three weeks to 3/1/10; and F-4 one month to 3/1/08. FB final action dates – only Mexico moved. EB filing dates – No movement at all. EB final action dates – EB-3 worldwide (except for China and India) moved back four months to 2/1/22 and India went backwards 3 years 6 ½ months to 1/1/09 in both EB-3 and EB-3W categories – ouch! A big warning was given in the notes that there is a strong likelihood that it will be necessary to retrogress the F-2A final action date next month, that the F-2B category final action dates will be continually monitored and that it may become necessary to retrogress the category to keep it within FY-2023 annual limitations. The July adjustment chart put out by USCIS is the same as in previous months – acceptance of dates for filing chart for FB and final action date chart for EB cases.

  1. Watch out for distance learning.

During the pandemic, USCIS was operating under Covid flexibilities under which distance-learning had been allowed in excess of the regulations under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) which states:

(G) For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken on-line or through distance education and does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class. An on-line or distance education course is a course that is offered principally through the use of television, audio, or computer transmission including open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, or satellite, audio conferencing, or computer conferencing. If the F-1 student’s course of study is in a language study program, no on-line or distance education classes may be considered to count toward a student’s full course of study requirement.

In an ICE SEVP Broadcast Message on 5/11/23: “Termination of SEVP COVID-19 Flexibilities”, ICE said that because of the termination of the Covid public emergency on 5/11/23, the SEVP Covid-19 guidance terminated on that day. Active F and M nonimmigrant students are able to complete the 2022-23 academic year under Covid-19 flexibilities through the 2023 summer semester. But active F and M nonimmigrant students will not be permitted to count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the regulatory limits for the 2023-24 academic year. Initial or reentering students must enroll in programs complying with the regulatory limits for distance learning. This must give pause now to those students wishing to enroll in schools offering a tenuous connection to physical classroom instruction as USCIS may now be looking harder at these schools’ arrangements for instruction following the ending of the pandemic emergency.

3. DOS administrative processing time being shortened.

The Department of State has good news for everyone. It sent out a message on 5/19/23 and reiterated it in the June 8, 2023 advice, “Facilitating Travel and Safeguarding National Security”, that the Department is processing visas more efficiently than ever and is continuously reducing the time required for administrative processing; that it has recently adopted new technology and enhanced coordination to reduce the number of these applications requiring administrative processing on security grounds, while upholding strict national security protections. It adds that since October 2022, most cases that would have previously required additional administrative processing were resolved immediately without additional, time-consuming handling.