Most entries below contain actual legal discussions of events directly related to Filipinos in or immigrating to the United States.
Remember- These writings are provided for general information only and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. Each person's needs and requirements are different and require a personal evaluation to determine the proper legal course of action.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

EB3-Philippines Retrogression

Beginning May 1st, the cutoff date for Employment-based 3rd preference (EB-3 Philippines) will be rolled back to July 1, 2007 – a substantial set back from the April cutoff date of October 1, 2014.  This retrogression of cutoff dates means that beginning on May 1st, immigrant visas will only be available to persons with a priority date earlier than July 1, 2007.  The period of retrogression is expected to last through the summer, and possibly very much longer.

If you find any of these terms confusing, you may wish to review Basics and Tips for Understanding the Visa Bulletin.

For anyone who has been watching the Visa Bulletin for the last year, retrogression comes as no surprise.  The cutoff date for EB-3 Philippines has advanced 29 months since November, and almost seven years in the last 12 months.

Effect of EB-3 Philippines Retrogression

If your priority date became current in the last year and you filed for permanent residence, you will not be harmed.  Although you will not be granted Permanent Residence until your priority date is current again, you will continue to be eligible for employment authorization.  Having a Permanent Residence application pending is usually much better than continually renewing your H-1B/H-4s.  Also, for those whose application for residence are still pending, do not be too disappointed by this set back.  Remember, it was the exceptionally rapid cut off date advancement that gave you the opportunity to file early for Permanent Residence in the first place.

If your priority date is earlier than October 1, 2014, and you have not filed for Permanent Residence, file quickly.  Properly filed I-485s received by USCIS on or before April 30th will still be accepted.

Unlike those applicants in the U.S. who already filed for Permanent Residence and are allowed to remain with work permission, retrogression is especially harsh for those waiting outside of the U.S. to consular process.  The rapid advancement of cutoff dates create a false belief that their wait for an immigrant visa will be short.  Unfortunately, that may not be the case.  For immigrant cases still at the National Visa Center, or cases yet to be started, the wait may now be lengthy.

 Special Actions by DOS and USCIS 

The Department of State and USCIS will sometimes take special actions when notified of a pending retrogression for a particular country.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila has already announced a plan to approve as many EB-3 cases as possible before May 1st.  This includes allowing applicants with interview-ready cases to appear at the embassy without an appointment to try to finalize their immigrant visas.  The instructions for walk-in applicants, and other useful information, can be found in this press release. 

USCIS has also been known to sometimes give special treatment to certain Permanent Resident cases prior to a retrogression.  When workloads permit, some older Philippine EB-3 cases in line to be processed may be given slight preference for final action.  Today I received a Filipino EB3-based Adjustment approval that was not expected for another one or two months.  I’m hoping this is a sign of more approvals to come in the next two weeks.  

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