USCIS “Do-Over” of Visa Bulletin Undercuts Administration’s Goal of Visa Modernization
September 29, 2015 Washington D.C. – As the result of a grave error made by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just days ago, thousands of noncitizens who had expected to apply to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence in October will continue to face lengthy waits before they can submit their applications. The new filing dates, which translate to longer wait-times, were made public late last Friday through an “updated” October Visa Bulletin.
Earlier this month, the immigration agencies took a positive step forward in implementing the Executive Action promise to reform the visa system. For the first time, the Department of State (DOS)’s Visa Bulletin contained a new “Dates for Filing” chart. This chart was based on USCIS’s and DOS’s estimates regarding the number of immigrant visas that would be available for those eligible to file in October. This meant that people could get started on the permanent resident process while they continued to advance in the visa queue. It also would allow them to apply for employment authorization and travel documents and to begin accruing time toward eligibility for job changes otherwise not available to them.
Then, on September 25, DOS published a replacement October Visa Bulletin, which changed the “Dates for Filing” for several categories. This change drastically reduced the number of applicants who would be eligible to file in October. It primarily harms the beneficiaries of employment-based categories and their spouses and minor children, since most family-based applicants apply for their visas abroad.
This debacle is a reminder of the Administration’s unfulfilled promise of meaningful visa reforms announced last November. Immigrant workers make enormous contributions to our economy and our communities, and our immigration system must be updated to further our prosperity. As the Administration has stated, in the absence of legislative reform, it is imperative that the immigration agencies do all that they can to maximize efficiencies and ensure the smooth functioning of our visa system. This recent misstep frustrates progress and erodes confidence in the system. The American Immigration Council urges the immigration agencies not only to correct their devastating mistake with respect to the visa bulletin, but to take immediate steps to implement the full range of reforms promised in the Executive Action announcement.