NVC and Consular Processing green card processing times could speed up in 2018 due to an unintended consequence of the Trump administration’s new requirement that all I-485, Adjustment of Status candidates must now undergo a green card interview .
Why? The USCIS will take longer to process Adjustments of Status in 2018 because of the new interview requirement. Because of the elongated I-485 processing times, USCIS will be able to process fewer green card approvals in 2018. As a result, more green card numbers will spill over into Consular Process queue.
We often see this phenomenon in the summer months, as we approach the end of a fiscal year. The DOS accelerates the Visa Bulletin in order to ensure that it uses the full allotment of employment-based visa numbers. We explained this phenomenon in a 2016 MU Law FAQ.
Unsurprisingly, Charlie Oppenheim, the DOS’ guru on immigrant visa number allocation, recognized that the new I-485 interview rule may delay I485 green cards during his October 2017 AILA “Check In With Charlie”.
MEMBER QUESTION #1: When does USCIS request and allocate a visa number to an individual case?
ANSWER #1: Per the agreed upon policy, USCIS will only request an immigrant visa number once all required processing is 100% complete, including conducting any required interview, receipt of a complete medical exam, all required clearances, etc.
MEMBER QUESTION #2: Could you please confirm that a visa number that gets allocated to each applicant who has successfully passed the interview should be preserved for that applicant unless the applicant becomes ineligible for permanent residence?
ANSWER #2: With regard to USCIS, though this is relatively rare, there are occasions in which USCIS requests a number, but before the adjustment of status application is fully processed, subsequent derogatory information comes to the officer’s attention which impacts eligibility. As another example, USCIS recently sent RFEs out on numerous EB-3 India cases which had been preadjudicated in anticipation that the final action date for this category would advance during August and September. Visa numbers were provided for those cases with the expectation that the applicants would respond to the RFEs in time to be approved before the end of the fiscal year. Unfortunately, hundreds of individuals did not respond in a timely manner, and USCIS determined that it would be unable to complete adjudication of those cases prior to September 30, 2017. Those cases were returned to “pending demand” status, and the visa numbers for those cases became available to other cases within FY 2017. USCIS was provided with a new number for each case once the requested evidence was received and successfully processed. As a result of new visa number requests for several hundred of these cases, the final action date for EB-3 India is not currently advancing. For consular processing cases, a visa number is allocated to a consular post for use during the month in which the visa applicant is originally scheduled for a visa interview. If the visa is not used during that month (i.e. the case is placed in administrative processing), the number is returned to the Visa Office at the end of the month.