The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently released the Visa Bulletin for December 2017. The Bulletin includes information on the diversity visa cut-offs, the Special Immigrant translator visa availability, the retrogression of Philippines family-based preference categories, and the scheduled expiration of two employment visa categories.
Please note that as of November 14, 2017, USCIS has not advised whether in December 2017, it will accept adjustment of status applications for family- or employment-based petitions based on filing dates, rather than final action dates. USCIS anticipates that this information will be released within one week of the monthly Visa Bulletin.
Diversity Visa Cut-offs
Immigration law provides up to 55,000 Diversity Visas each fiscal year to permit additional immigration opportunities for persons from countries with low admissions during the previous five years. Under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), up to 5,000 of the 55,000 annually-allocated diversity visas will be made available for use under the NACARA program. This resulted in reduction of the DV-2018 annual limit to 50,000. DV visas are divided among six geographic regions. No one country can receive more than seven percent of the available diversity visas in any one year.
The following the cut-off criteria will apply in January 2018:
- AFRICA - 13,000; except Egypt: 8,300 and Ethiopia: 9,200
- EUROPE - 8,200
- ASIA - 3,400; except Iran: 2,800 and Nepal: 2,650
- SOUTH AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN - 500
- OCEANIA - 475
- NORTH AMERICA (BAHAMAS) - 5
Special Immigrant Translator Visas
Due to limited availability of visa numbers and the existing demand, the DOS expects to reach the annual limit of 50 Special Immigrant Visas early in FY-2018. It will hold the December Final Action Date at April 1, 2010 and expects that it will require this category to become “unavailable” in the coming months.
Once the annual limit is reached, visa issuance in this category will not be possible until October 2018, under the next fiscal year's annual limit. The SQ Special Immigrant Visa category for certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan is not affected and remains current.
Retrogression of Philippines Family-based Preference Categories
During the course of the past year, the Philippines F1 and F2B final action dates had been advanced very rapidly in order to fully utilize all available numbers. In recent months the amount of applications being filed has been increasing at a steady pace and has reached a level of demand where it has become necessary to retrogress each of those final action dates in an effort to keep within the annual limit for these preference categories.
Scheduled Expiration of Two Employment-based Visa Categories
1) Employment Fourth Preference Certain Religious Workers (SR)
The non-minister special immigrant program (SR visas) expires on December 8, 2017. No SR visas may be issued overseas, or final action taken on adjustment of status cases, after midnight December 7, 2017. Visas issued prior to this date will only be issued with a validity date of December 7, 2017, and all individuals seeking admission as a non-minister special immigrant must be admittedinto the U.S. no later than midnight December 7, 2017.
The final action date for this category has been listed as “Current” for December for all countries except El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, which are subject to specific final action dates for December. If there is no legislative action extending this category for FY-2018, the final action date would immediately become “Unavailable” for December for all countries effective December 8, 2017.
2) Employment Fifth Preference Categories (I5 and R5)
The immigrant investor pilot program was extended by continuing resolution until December 8, 2017. The I5 and R5 visas may be issued until close of business on December 8, 2017, and may be issued for the full validity period. No I5 or R5 visas may be issued overseas, or final action taken on adjustment of status cases, after December 8, 2017.
The final action dates for the I5 and R5 categories have been listed as “Current” for December for all countries except China-mainland born, which is subject to a July 15, 2014 final action date. If there is no legislative action extending them for FY-2018, the final action dates would immediately become “Unavailable” for December for all countries effective December 9, 2017.
If you are affected by these developments and would like information about the process, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Tumblr for up-to-date immigration news.
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