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US Immigration

Jun 15 2009

Grim News for Employment-Based Immigrants

The wait time for employment-based applicants to obtain a visa number will be much longer in the coming months and in future years, according to Charles Oppenheim of the U.S. Department of State Visa Office.

The grim prediction is based on a recent analysis by the Visa Office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing during the first seven and a half (7 ½) months of the current fiscal year and the changes to the processing patterns. Mr. Oppenheim also estimates that all of the 140,000 employment-based visa numbers allocated for this fiscal year will be used by September 30, 2009.
Visa numbers for the employment based 3rd preference (EB-3) which refers to skilled and unskilled workers became unavailable starting May 1st. The cause was the clearing by the Department of Labor of its huge backlog of labor certification cases which resulted in the filing of tens of thousands of I-485 applications with priority dates in 2004 and earlier.

At that time, visa numbers for the other employment categories remained available except for China and India whose second preference (EB-2) showed a cut-off date of February 15, 2005 and February 15, 2004, respectively.

But there has been a strong surge in the demand for other preferences, Mr. Oppenheim said. The 4th preference (EB-4) which refers to religious workers and other special immigrants may experience retrogression later this year as a result.

There has also been a heavy increase in applications for the employment-based 5th preference (EB-5) for immigrant investors and for the employment-based first preference (EB-1) for outstanding professors and researchers, multinational executives and managers and persons of extraordinary ability.

The EB-1 for India may require the establishment of a cut off date in August or September this year.

The surge in the EB-4 and EB-5 is significant because unused visa numbers in these categories are given to the EB-2 and EB-3 categories. With these categories using all their allotted numbers, the retrogression of the EB-2 and EB-3 will get worse.

The applicants from India and China will have the longest wait. The EB-2 cut-off date for July 2009 is January 1, 2000, but it may become unavailable this August or September. At the start of the 2010 fiscal year (10/01/2009), India’s cut-off date for EB-3 will be November 1, 2001 while China’s cut-off date will be March 1, 2005.

The Visa office estimates that on October 1, 2009, which is the start of the 2010 fiscal year, the EB-3 category will have the following cut-off dates: China – March 1, 2003; India – November 1, 2001; Mexico – March 1, 2003; other countries – March 1, 2003.

Without immigration reforms, the waiting time for the EB-3 applicants will probably be over a decade.

has been practicing law for over 30 years and is included in the Marquis Who’s Who in American Law. A former law editor and professor, he is also the author of a book on immigrant experiences. He has spoken in international and national conventions and has been interviewed on radio and television, including the ABC Nightly News. He has participated in meetings with White House staff and the Immigration Commissioner to discuss immigration reforms. For his community service and advocacy, he has received numerous awards in the U.S. and abroad. For more information, you may log on to his website at or call (212) 695-5281
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