A Visa Bulletin is published monthly by the Department of State and lists the cut-off dates that govern how many visas will be available.
Applicants who have a priority date earlier than the cut-off date published in the most current Visa Bulletin are eligible to apply for permanent residence.
The cut-off date is determined by the number of visas used to that point, projected demand for visas, and the number of visas remaining under the annual limit for that country and/or preference category. The Federal Fiscal Year runs from October 1 to September 30.
The priority date can either be when the immigrant petition was properly filed with USCIS or in an employment-based application when it was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor.
A majority of the time the cut-off dates on the Visa Bulletins move forward in time, but sometimes they may move backwards.
Visa retrogression occurs when more people apply for a visa in a particular category or country than there are visas available for that month. Sometimes a priority date that meets the cut-off date one month will not meet the cut-off date the next month.
Every October 1 a new supply of visas are made available. At this time, the cut-off dates usually return to where they were before retrogression.
If your case is being adjudicated and your priority date no longer meets the cut-off date published in the Visa Bulletin, as a result of retrogression, then your case will be postponed until your visa number becomes current again.
When looking at the cut-off dates for the month of October, we can see that the cut off dates for family-sponsored F1 (Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S Citizens) and F4 (Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens) categories have returned back to where it was before they retrogressed back in September 2017.
If we look at the family-sponsored F4 category, which took a big hit for the cut off dates, for July and August 2017 the cut-off date was May 8, 2004, then in September 2017 it retrogressed to January 1, 2002, and now in October 2017 the cut-off date returned back to May 8, 2004.
The family-sponsored F1 category was effected similarly. In July and August 2017, the cut-off date was December 22, 2010, then in September 2017 it retrogressed to May 1, 2010, and now in October 2017 the cut-off date returned back to December 22, 2010.
In regards to employment based visa petitions there was no retrogression.
If anyone is worried about the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) and applications that were current but no longer are because of retrogression, you must at least pay the immigrant visa fee and/or file the DS-260 to protect the interests of the child.
The Visa Bulletin needs to be closely monitored over the next few months to see if the cut-off dates continue to move forward, or if the numbers retrogress again within the new few months.
If you have any questions about the visa bulletin, retrogression or the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), speak to a qualified U.S. immigration attorney.
Michael Phulwani and Dev Banad Viswanath are immigration attorneys with Queens-based Banad Law Offices.