USCIS has recently instructed its field offices on how to handle adjustment of status applications that are affected by the retrogression. It affects both employment-based and family-based visa applicants who are in the United States and have applied or are applying for adjustment of status.
The instruction which was stated in an interim memo is intended to standardize the handling of visa-regressed cases throughout USCIS field offices nationwide. It eliminates the need for the field offices to request allocation of a visa number for an otherwise eligible applicant for whom a visa number is unavailable at the time of the interview. It also centralizes the storage of each case type at designated locations.
The change in processing will facilitate the collection of performance data to enable generation of statistical reports and to improve case tracking and inventory control of visa regressed cases. It is also meant to offer better visibility to the Department of State (DOS) Visa Office of USCIS inventory levels so that they can better plan and manage the movement of priority dates displayed in their monthly visa bulletin.
Visa number retrogression continues based on the newest visa bulletin released by the DOS. The February 2011 visa bulletin states that continued heavy demand for numbers required the continued regression of worldwide cut-off dates.
Cut-off dates for Philippine family-based preference categories are as follows: 1st (unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens) – August 1, 1994; 2A (spouses and children, and unmarried sons and daughters below 21 years of permanent residents) – January 1, 2008; 2B (unmarried sons and daughters 21 years and older of permanent residents) – June 1, 1999; 3rd (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) – October 22, 1991; and 4th (brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens) – January 15, 1988.
There will also be some retrogression in Philippine employment-based third preference (EB3) categories. For skilled workers and professionals, the cut-off date is April 1, 2005. For other workers under the EB3 category, the cut-off date is May 1, 2003.
This visa number regression in the family preferences has ensued after very rapid advances in cut-off date movement in the past two years, which resulted in a dramatic increase in applicant demand and in some categories being oversubscribed.
Under the new procedure, the USCIS field offices must complete the interview, make the necessary security and background-related checks and ensure that eligibility and documentary requirements are met. The offices must resolve all issues of the case, either at the interview or through a request for evidence, and deny the case if warranted.
If the case is approvable, the field offices must then determine visa number availability. They must request the allocation of a visa number if a number is immediately available. If a visa number is not immediately available, the offices have to transfer the case to the appropriate location: employment-based cases are routed to the Texas Service Center, while family-based cases are shipped to the National Benefits Center. Either the TSC or NBC will directly initiate the request for the allocation of the visa number
The policy memo took effect on January 1, 2011 and will be implemented until further notice. For visa-regressed employment- and family-based I-485 cases that were pending before January 1, 2011, the memo directs that they need to have been received at the proper storage location by December 31, 2010.