U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services changes adjustment acceptance procedures

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has revised its procedures for determining whether it will accept adjustment applications under the newly reformatted State Department Visa Bulletin, it announced today.  After the Visa Bulletin is released each month, USCIS will take an additional week to determine whether it will accept applications for adjustment and related work and travel benefits from those with a priority date that is current for application filing in the forthcoming month.     
 
The State Department’s reformed Visa Bulletin lists two sets of cut-off dates for each backlogged employment-based preference category and country: (1) an "application final action" date, as has always been reported in the Bulletin; and (2) a "date for eligibility to file visa applications," the cut-off date for eligibility to submit an application for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa. The cut-off dates for filing eligibility were to be determined through a collaboration between the two agencies, and USCIS was to announce whether it would accept adjustments from foreign nationals in the second category at the same time the State Department issued the Visa Bulletin.
 
But as announced today, USCIS will instead make a separate determination of filing eligibility, and will post its decision on its own Visa Bulletin website each month.  USCIS will only accept adjustment applications from filing-eligible foreign nationals if it determines that there are more immigrant visa numbers available for the fiscal year than there are known applicants.  Otherwise, it will accept adjustment applications from those with priority dates that are current for final action only.  The agency indicated that it needs up to a week to gather data concerning application volume and visa availability.   
 
In the coming days, USCIS is expected to announce whether it will accept applications from those identified in the November Visa Bulletin as eligible to file. 

 
What This Means for Foreign Nationals and Employers

Under the new USCIS procedures, foreign nationals with a priority date that is current for filing eligibility will have to wait longer to learn whether USCIS will accept their applications for adjustment of status and related work and travel benefits in the coming month.  The State Department typically issues its Visa Bulletin on the ninth or tenth day of each month.  Under the new procedures, filing-eligible foreign nationals will not know until the second half of the month whether they can file. In addition, these applicants will have less time to prepare forms and gather the supporting documents needed to file.    
 
USCIS’s change in procedure follows several weeks of uncertainty about adjustment filing under reformed Visa Bulletin.  Originally conceived by the Obama Administration as a means to improve data-sharing between USCIS and the State Department and alleviate the hardships of immigrant visa backlogs, the new Bulletin has been the subject to several policy reversals that mean far fewer foreign nationals will be able to benefit from the reforms than anticipated.
 

Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK