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Visa Numbers and Processing Times – Summer 2001
by Cyrus D. Mehta

The August visa bulletin is bad news for family-based immigrant visa applicants. Many family-based numbers, especially the second preference for spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents, have retrogressed. Also, most family-based numbers for Mexico, and all family-based in the first and third preferences are now "unavailable." The State Department has advised that this results from an unusually large number of adjustment of status applications in these categories being processed by INS, with the result, in the case of the "unavailable" categories being that the numbers for the entire fiscal year have been used. The State Department makes a category "unavailable" to ensure that additional numbers won’t be used this year and cause the quota to be exceeded.

Retrogressing the dates for a category causes the usage of the numbers to slow down, again to avoid exceeding the quota. The State Department expects the "unavailable" categories to continue into September. It is also possible that additional family-basted categories will retrogress or become "unavailable" in September.

The State Department, however, has indicated that it expects to return the family-based categories to approximately their July 2001 levels in October when the new fiscal year begins.

The silver lining to all this is that all employment preference categories for every country have become current. Even the "other worker" sub-category of the employment-based third preference became current in July. That category, which had been backlogged by more than five years, has been advancing rapidly in recent months due to a lack of usage of "other workers" numbers by INS. It is not likely that the "other worker" category will remain current for too long as its current status will create increased demand which in turn is likely to result in a severe retrogression of the cut-off date for this category early next year.

Premium Processing for H-1B1s, TNs & Rs

The INS will add H-1Bs, TNs and Rs to the premium processing program on July 31, 2001. H-1Bs may later have to be suspended from the program if INS comes close to reaching the 195,000 per fiscal year cap on H-1B allocations before the end of the fiscal year, but it is not known at this time if that is likely to occur this year.

As of May 23, 2001, INS advised AILA that at it had approved 117,000 H-1Bs towards the cap and had another 40,000 cap-subject H-1Bs pending.

About The Author

Cyrus D. Mehta, a graduate of Cambridge University and Columbia Law School, practices immigration law in New York City. He is Vice Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association's National Labor Department Liaison Committee, trustee of the American Immigration Law Foundation and recipient of the 1997 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyers Award. He is also Chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He frequently lectures on various immigration subjects at legal seminars, workshops and universities and may be contacted at 212-686-1581 or