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NVC Inventory Report: When It's Not Good To Be #1

by Sherry Neal

The National Visa Center has issued a report of the number of visa applications in the employment-based categories and family-based categories pending at NVC. The Philippines topped the list with the most pending cases in the Employment-based Third Preference Category (EB-3). The NVC reported that it has 45,331 EB3 cases from the Philippines - that represents 43.8% of the 103,448 total EB3 cases at NVC. By comparison, India has 18.8% of the pending EB3 cases at NVC and China has 6.9% of the pending EB3 cases

However, the high number for the Philippines is not too surprising when you consider a few facts. First, the vast majority of Filipino immigrants in the employment-based category are professional nurses. Because nurses don't typically qualify for a nonimmigrant visa (H-1b limited to occupations which require a baccalaureate degree) their immigrant cases fall within the purview of NVC rather than I-485 adjustment of status cases. In contrast, the number of pending I-485 cases - those in the U.S. on a temporary status and adjusting to permanent residence - for India is more than 5 times higher than the Philippines. Second, retrogression for EB3 category has been in effect since October 2006 (with the exception of the two month reprieve in the summer of 2007 when dates were current; however, only a small percentage of nurses were able to get through that narrow window of opportunity to get the immigrant visa). Given the I-140 and NVC processing times in NVC, most of the cases took at least a year to process, therefore, most of the applicants that received permanent residence were applicants who had filed in 2005 or earlier. Overall, the number of pending EB3 cases for the Philippines is not bad when you consider it is an accumulation of almost five years of cases due to retrogression. Third, USCIS has been processing I-140 cases more quickly in the last six months, thus some of the cases that appear on the NVC inventory chart are cases that were previously recorded in earlier charts for "Pending I-140's" or "Approved I-140's" from data the USCIS issued last year.

By law, the minimum number of employment based green cards allowed per year is 140,000. The "actual" number of employment based green cards that have been issued in the EB3 category (overall for all countries) during the last three years is as follows: 89,922 in 2006, 85,030 in 2007, and 48,903 in 2008. Note: the larger number in 2006 and 2007 is in part due to the Schedule A legislation that provided for an additional 50,000 immigrant visas.

There are two "positive" points for Filipino's in the third preference employment-based category. According to the NVC report, the "total" number of Filipino cases in all the first three employment-based categories is 47,420. Thus, 45,331 of the total 47,420 Filipino cases are in the third preference category (only 2,089 in the 1st preference and 2nd preference category for the Philippines). That is important because the unused visa numbers for the Philippines in the first preference category and second preference category get to "trickle down" to the third preference category for the Philippines. Second, there are at least some cases that are duplicates, and thus fall out of the system. Some applicants have lost their sponsorship (company went out of business and/or job no longer available given the long wait for the immigrant visa) and have obtained sponsorship through a second employer. Thus, some applicants have more than one case pending.

About The Author

Sherry L. Neal is a Partner at Hammond Law Group, LLC in Cincinnati, Ohio. She advises employers and foreign nationals on employment immigration issues. She can be reached at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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