The 35-Day Rollercoaster Ride
July 20, 2007

June 13th, July 2nd and July 17th of 2007 are three dates that will forever remain infamous among immigration lawyers and the clients and communities they serve. In the span of 35 days, the U.S. Department of State and Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) took everyone on an emotional rollercoaster of extreme proportions.

It all started on June 13 when the Department of State issued its visa bulletin for July 2007. As many of you know, the visa bulletin is issued each month and announces the visa availability in family-based and employment-based categories for the upcoming month. If a specific date appears under a category, that signifies that any applicant with a priority date prior to the cut-off date listed on the bulletin should have access to an available visa. If a “C” appears in a category, that means that visas are available for any eligible person in that category. However, if a “U” appears, that indicates that no visas are available in that category.

For months, even years, expectant immigrants and their lawyers have looked to the visa bulletin every month hoping that the following month would bring available visas in the category with their priority date. On June 13, it appears as if the prayers of many had been answered – the visa bulletin for July 2007 showed a “C” for all employment-based categories, with the exception of “Other Workers (unskilled)”. Intending employment-based immigrants all over the U.S. were filled with excitement and hope as it appeared that their wait would finally be nearing an end and their application could finally be filed. Many had to quickly assemble funds for filing fees, legal fees, medical exams and photographs so that their applications could be filed on the earliest possible date – July 2, 2007.

Then, on July 2, the very day that CIS was supposed to begin accepting the applications, the Department of State issued a revised July 2007 visa bulletin stating that all of the employment-based visas had been allocated for 2007 and CIS officers were instructed to reject all applications received on that date or after from employment-based applicants. The revised bulletin advised that the employment-based visas might once again be available in October 2007.

Although the Department of State stated that the reason for the sudden “flip-flop” was because CIS had unexpectedly cleared their backlog of applications and exhausted all remaining visa numbers for the current fiscal year, there were many who believed there were other motivations. On July 30, 2007 the CIS filing fees would be dramatically increasing. The initial July 2007 bulletin would have allowed all those eligible to apply, to file their applications prior to the fee increase. Many believed that it was because of the future increase in filing fees, that the revised July 2007 bulletin was issued, thereby preventing volumes of applications to be filed with the lower fees.

Just as a class action lawsuit was filed in federal court, on July 17, 2007 another announcement from the Department of State sent a third round of shockwaves throughout the immigrant communities and for their sponsoring employers: the revised July 2007 bulletin was being withdrawn and the initial July 2007 bulletin that provided for availability of all of the employment-based visas (with the exception of the “Other Worker” category) should be relied upon. It not only said that applications would be accepted by CIS through August 17, 2007, but also stated that the filings would, for the most part, be accepted under the old fee schedule. (*Please note that this only applies to employment-based applications and has no bearing on family-based adjustment of status applications.)

It is also important to note that if an eligible applicant does not file his/her application on or before August 17, 2007, they may not be able to file their application until perhaps many months in the future, since the visa bulletin for August 2007 has made all employment-based visas unavailable again in all categories.

To the relief of many, for the next two weeks, the Department of State and CIS are sticking by the last announcement and accepting employment-based adjustment of status applications. Despite the 35 days of excitement, uncertainty, anger and relief, the best possible outcome was realized.

Copyright © 2007-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois