In Nov. 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed changes to the H-1b program. The proposed changes were published in Jan. 2019 and finalized
Each month, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim - Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, provides predictions on visa bulletins and visa availability for upcoming months. For the month of January, Charlie is unable to provide predictions, as he does not have sufficient data. Charlie, however, will provide short-term movement predictions and projections for the February 2019 Visa Bulletin.
Because employment-based immigrant applications from FY2018 that were not processed during the previous fiscal year - due to retrogression of cutoff dates - will now be worked on, current demand data may be skewed. Charles Oppenheim believes it is unsuitable to use this data to predict future demand as it may not mirror actual demand. Charlie, therefore, wishes to evaluate and track employment-based application demand over the next few weeks so as to make accurate predictions.
Minimal Final Action Date Movements in the January 2019 Visa Bulletin
There is hardly any movement in the January 2019 Visa Bulletin. This is in line with general movement over the course of the first quarter of the current fiscal year (Q1 FY2019). For instance, for the employment-based categories, only the EB-1 category sees any movement. You can find the January Visa Bulletin at - https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin/2019/visa-bulletin-for-january-2019.html.
Dates of Filing to Be Used In January 2019
For the fourth successive month, applicants can use dates of filing instead of final action dates for both employment-based petitions and family-sponsored petitions in January 2019. However, Charlie expects this trend to end soon - as early as February. As such from February, applicants may be required to use the less advantageous final action dates.
A Lapse in Congressional Authorization Means Suspension/Expiration of Several Categories
Categories including EB-5 regional center program (not the EB-5 program) and EB-4 Certain Religious Workers expired at the end of December 21, 2018. This was caused by a lapse in congressional authorization to continue these programs. As such, on the Visa Bulletin for January 2019, their dates of filing are listed as unavailable (U). The EB-5 program, on the other hand, was not affected and continues to operate.
Other affected USCIS operations include E-Verify (a service used to verify the eligibility of employees in the United States) and the Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 medical doctors.
Annual Report of Immigrant Visa Applicants Registered As Of November 1, 2018 Released
The National Visa Center (NVC) published statistics on applicants registered at the NVC as of November 1, 2018. This report includes immigrant visa applications in both the employment-based and family-sponsored preferences.
1. American Immigration Lawyers Association. (2018). Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim - AILA Doc. No. 14071401.
2. U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs. (2018). Visa Bulletin For January 2019. Retrieved December 23, 2018
3. USCIS. (2018). Adjustment of Status Filing Charts from the Visa Bulletin. Retrieved December 23, 2018
4. USCIS. (2018). Lapse in Federal Funding Does Not Impact Most USCIS Operations. Retrieved December 23, 2018
5. USCIS. (2018). Special Immigrant Religious Workers. Retrieved December 23, 2018