Breaking Down the Takeaways from the U.S. State Department’s October 2020 Visa Bulletin
Exorbitant wait times can be one of the biggest obstacles to efficiently obtaining a green card through employment-based immigration. Even if you meet all requirements for an employment-based immigrant visa, including a sponsoring employer, you are still subject to the availability of visas in your category.
The United States Department of State caps the allocations for work visas on a preferential system annually. There are also individual caps on countries, meaning if you are applying from a high-volume country, you could face longer waits. Visa applications are assessed sequentially by the agency, meaning your application will be assessed in the order in which it was received. The Department of State publishes periodic visa bulletin updates to give applicants an idea of how long they should expect to wait for visa availability in their category.
In an October 2020 visa bulletin, the Department of State indicated most visa categories will soon experience rapid movement and a reduction in wait times. EB-3 applicants from certain countries that previously saw wait times of over a year are expected to now see no additional wait. Applicants from China and India should also see substantial advancements across EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 visas.
The agency also provided updates on visa allocations and expectations for 2021. Below, we cover the takeaways of the announcement and how it could impact your employment-based visa.
EB-1 Visas for Priority Workers
The top preferential category requires applicants to demonstrate they possess an “extraordinary” ability in the fields of art, business, science, athletics, or education. This typically requires an impressive resume and a thorough level of documentation attesting to the applicant’s prowess in their industry. Unlike other employment-based visas, however, EB-1 visas for those with extraordinary abilities do not require a permanent job offer or sponsoring employer. EB-1 visas can also be issued to “outstanding” professors or researchers – typically, they must be considered leaders in their field – and multinational executives.
Per the October 2020 visa bulletin, EB-1 visas will remain current for the month of October for all countries except China and India. “Remaining current” means there is no wait time to receive a visa in the category; as soon as your application is approved, a visa will be issued. There was some good news for applicants from China and India: Both countries will advance by 3 months to June 1, 2018.
EB-2 Visas for Professionals with Advanced Degrees
The second preferential category is reserved for those with a considerable level of education and experience. This includes a Master’s degree (or foreign equivalent) or a Bachelor’s degree with at least 5 years of relevant experience. Sometimes, applicants who are deemed to be of national interest can also obtain an EB-2 visa. Those who work in art, business, or science industries may also qualify if they can prove an “exceptional” ability.
All countries other than China and India will remain current with no wait time. India will advance nearly two months to September 1, 2009. China will 6 weeks to March 1, 2016.
EB-3 Visas for Skilled, Unskilled, and Professional Workers
The third preference category encompasses several subcategories. The “professional workers” designation refers to any position requiring a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent. Skilled workers are those who have at least 2 years of relevant job training or other experience; the position must not be temporary or seasonal. Unskilled workers are those with fewer than 2 years of training or experience, but again, their job must not be seasonal or temporary.
The October 2020 visa bulletin signals extensive movement in this category. All countries other than China and India will become current in October. Applicants from Vietnam, Philippines, Mexico, Central America, and the General Category, all of which previously wait times of well over a year, will now have no wait.
China and India will also see significant advancements: China’s cutoff date moves up to 4.5 months to July 1, 2017. India will advance 3.5 months to January 15, 2010.
EB-5 Visas for Investors
This special class of employment visa is lowest on the preferential scale and also requires you to pay to play. Applicants must invest a minimum of $1,000,000 in a United States business, the proceeds of which create at least 10 full-time positions for U.S. workers. Some applicants may be able to invest a lower minimum if $500,000 if the funds are allocated to a rural or area with high levels of unemployment.
Per the October 2020 visa bulletin, EB-5 visas are the only major category that will not see significant movement, with some options set to soon expire altogether. For countries not involved in the Regional Center Program, countries other than China and Vietnam will remain current for October. Neither China nor Vietnam will see any advancements. China’s cutoff date remains August 15, 2015, while Vietnam’s sits unchanged at August 1, 2017. Additionally, the Regional Center Program will become unavailable when it expires on September 30th, 2020, unless it is reauthorized.
Announcement of Visa Allocations for Fiscal Year 2021
As part of the October 2020 visa bulletin, the U.S. Department of State tabulated its anticipated employment-based visa allocation for the 2021 fiscal year. As many as 261,500 work visas are expected to be made available, an all-time high and up from 156,253 this past fiscal year.
This unprecedented cap is in part the result of lower rates of family-based immigration. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed operations at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency and depressed demand for family-based visas. The Trump administration’s freeze on temporary work visas also contributed to the higher-than-usual cap.
Rapid Forward Movement Anticipated in 2021
The Department of State has signaled that they expect present levels of demand are well under the 261,500 work visa cap. Consequently, the agency is predicting rapid movement for nearly all visa categories in the coming months.
The State Department is anticipating the following trends for work visas for Fiscal Year 2021:
- EB-1 – All countries remain current except for China and India. Rapid forward advancement for both China and India.
- EB-2 – All countries remain current except for China and India. Rapid forward advancement for both China and India.
- EB-3 – All countries remain current except for China and India. Rapid forward advancement for both China and India.
- EB-5 – All countries remain current except Vietnam and China. Slight forward movement for Vietnam but no forward movement expected for China.
In other words, applicants not applying from China or India in the EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 categories should not expect any additional wait times for Fiscal Year 2021. Applicants from China and India should still see significant progress across EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 visas. Only EB-5 applicants from China and Vietnam should expect little to no forward advancement. In general, this is great news for those seeking to obtain green cards through employment, especially in the EB-3 category.
How the Presidential Proclamation Impacts the Process
The October 2020 visa bulletin also acknowledged President Trump’s April 22 proclamation, which halted the issuing of many types of temporary work visas as well as prohibited the entry of certain types of immigrants. The latter point throttles the issuance certain U.S. immigrant visas.
This proclamation is currently set to expire on January 1, 2021, at which point these restrictions will be lifted. However, it remains possible that new guidance could be issued by the White House if President Trump wins reelection.
Some Programs Set to Expire
Finally, the State Department noted several employment-based visa programs are presently set to expire if they do not additional funding allocations from Congress. As we mentioned above, the Regional Center Program for EB-5 visas is currently set to expire after September 30, 2020. The non-Regional Center Program will continue unabated, but immigrant visas under the Regional Center Program will become unavailable in October if it is not reauthorized.
Additionally, the EB-4 visa for non-minister religious workers is also set to expire at the end of the month. This special visa category will become unavailable in October if new funding is not allocated.
Congress is expected to attempt to extend both programs. Funding allocations for both through December 11, 2020 are included in a stopgap spending bill that recently passed the House of Representatives and will soon be reviewed by the Senate.
Have Questions About How This Impacts Your Work Visa? We Can Help.
Our team at The Fleischer Law Firm LLC has decades of experience and is prepared to leverage our knowledge to help you get your work visa as painlessly and efficiently as possible. Our employment-based immigration attorneys work to stay up to date with all evolving legislation and visa bulletins and will work to put you in the most advantageous position possible, including minimizing your wait time. We handle employment immigration cases of all sizes, ranging from individual employees to multinational corporations. No matter the specifics of your situation, we are confident we will be able to find a way to help.
Call (513) 880-9969 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.