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Priority Worker Visas Face Standstill Until Next Fiscal Year

visa-3109800_640-300x169The Visa Control and Reporting Division of the US Department of State (DOS) announced last week that it will be cutting back on processing immigrant visas for certain “priority workers” due to their unmanageable worldwide demand.

Priority workers, also known as “EB-1” (employment-based first preference workers), include “persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, business, arts or sports; outstanding professors and researchers; and multinational executives and managers.”

In light of this announcement, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the DOS have, since August 1 of this year, ceased issuing both immigrant visas and lawful permanent residence status to at least 137,000 highly in-demand workers.

The DOS published its monthly Visa Bulletin For August 2018 on the 14th, announcing that processing of immigrant visas and permanent residence statuses for EB-1 applicants would remain on hold until December 2018 or Q2 of Fiscal Year 2019.

This processing standstill is known as a “visa retrogression,” which occurs when the monthly availability of immigrant visas falls short of the volume of foreign nationals applying for a visa in a particular category (in this case, the EB-1 category) or from a specific country. This normally only takes place right before the federal fiscal year closes in September 30, when visa issuance reaches the annual category, or per-country, limitations.

Below are a few important facts about EB-1 visas:

  • The number of EB-1 visas that can be issued every federal fiscal year is set by Congress.
  • Visa processing agencies like the DOS and USCIS depend on retrogression to keep their visa issuance within those maximum annual limits.
  • A fresh supply of immigrant visas is made available at the beginning of every fiscal year, October 1, but this does not guarantee that visa processing will return to its pre-retrogression state.

The massive influx of EB-1 employment-based petitions has been attributed to the increasing demand of permanent US employers for EB-1 and other specialty workers in the current economic climate. US employers have been advised to complete and file their EB-1 petitions as soon as they can, in light of what the DOS calls an “extremely high rate of demand for [EB-1] numbers, primarily for USCIS adjustment of status applicants.

For now, the EB-1 backlog and the visa’s retrogression is poised to affect foreign nationals from different countries including China, India, and the Philippines. Unfortunately, the rate of visa processing for these countries generally shows no sign of returning to normal until December 2018, highlighting the severity of the backlog for these and other priority worker visas.

If you want to learn more about the EB-1 visa program, or want assistance on applying for a visa with your employer, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Call our offices at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials.