As we enter 2024, many employment-based green card applicants are eagerly awaiting the release of the February 2024 Visa Bulletin by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to find out their place in line for permanent residency. This bulletin, published monthly, determines visa availability and priority dates that allow applicants to file their green card applications.
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Overview of the Visa Bulletin
The visa bulletin is essentially a waiting list for green cards, categorizing applicants by their visa preference category (family-sponsored or employment-based), country of birth, and priority date. An applicant’s priority date is the date their labor certification application or immigrant petition was filed with USCIS.Each month, the visa bulletin designates cut-off priority dates for each category and country. Applicants with priority dates earlier than the cut-off dates in their category may file for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa. This allows USCIS to control the flow of green card applications each month.
February 2024 Visa Bulletin Predictions
Experts are anticipating some major changes in the February 2024 visa bulletin, with potentially significant forward movement across most categories. Here are some specific predictions:
Faster Movement for EB-2 and EB-3 India
The predictions indicate rapid forward movement for employment-based second preference (EB-2) and third preference (EB-3) applicants born in India. The EB-2 India category could see the date advance by up to an entire year, from around mid-2013 currently to mid-2014. The EB-3 India category may also progress by 9-12 months.Such rapid movement will allow many Indian nationals to finally file their green card applications after years spent waiting in backlogs.
EB-2 China Could Become Current
Employment-based second preference applicants from China may also see considerable forward movement, with experts predicting this category could even become “current” in February. This means visas would be immediately available for all applicants in the EB-2 China queue, regardless of priority date.
Relief for Filipino EB-3 Applicants
Filipino applicants in the EB-3 skills worker category, which has seen minimal progress in recent years, are expected to get some relief as well. The predictions indicate the EB-3 Philippines date may advance by up to 6 months.
Slow Progress for EB-1
While most categories could see leaps forward, the exceptional ability (EB-1) category for all countries will likely inch forward more slowly. Advancement of only 1-2 weeks is expected, continuing an already drawn-out pace.
Potential Changes Behind the Predictions
Several key factors underlie experts’ optimistic Visa Bulletin predictions for February 2024:
Increased Country Caps
One major reason for the dramatic forward movement expected in February is legislation passed in December 2022 eliminating per-country limits for employment-based green cards.Previously, no single country could receive more than 7% of the total green cards issued in a year. This led to massive backlogs for oversubscribed countries like India and China.The new legislation gets rid of country caps over the next 9 years and is expected to significantly reduce wait times for applicants from countries with high demand.
Higher Green Card Quotas
Another legislative change that will allow faster Visa Bulletin movement is an increase in the actual annual limit on employment-based green cards.While currently just 140,000 employment-based green cards are issued per year, the new legislation gradually raises this quota to 270,000 green cards annually. This over 90% increase will help USCIS churn through backlogs more quickly.
More Efficient USCIS Processing
In addition to the impact from legislative changes, USCIS processing efficiency gains over the past couple years are also allowing swifter Visa Bulletin movement.Thanks to increased staffing, better technology, and streamlined processes, USCIS has been able to adjudicate green card applications more rapidly. This gives them confidence to advance Visa Bulletin dates more aggressively.
Big Implications for Applicants
If the February 2024 Visa Bulletin predictions hold true, they will have massive implications for green card applicants who have faced lengthy waits under the old system.
Shorter Wait Times
The dramatic forward movement expected means applicants from oversubscribed countries like India and China may finally get relief from wait times that stretch well over a decade.Instead of needing to wait years and years to simply file a green card application, many applicants will now be able to file right away thanks to the priority date advancements.
Increased Chance of Approval
The elimination of per-country limits also increases applicants’ chances of actually securing a green card once their application is filed.Previously, applicants from countries like India and China faced very low odds of receiving a green card each year due to the 7% per-country cap. With this cap now gone, any eligible applicant has a much higher chance of getting approved.
Ability to Change Jobs
Another major benefit is that applicants with approved green card petitions who are waiting to file adjustment of status applications will have much more job flexibility in 2024.Once the February 2024 dates allow these applicants to file their green card applications, they can more freely change employers or even start their own companies without losing their place in line for permanent residency.
Next Steps for Applicants
While official numbers won’t be released until mid-January 2024, prospective green card holders hoping to take advantage of the favorable predictions should start preparing their applications now. Key steps include:
- Consult an immigration attorney to understand the immigration process and prepare documentation
- Gather necessary supporting materials like educational credentials, tax records, and medical exam results
- If eligible under February 2024 dates, file Adjustment of Status to apply for a green card without leaving the U.S.
- Otherwise, use the February 2024 dates to plan for Consular Processing via a U.S. consulate abroad
The door to U.S. permanent residency through employment may soon open much wider thanks to the positive February 2024 Visa Bulletin predictions. Prospective applicants would be prudent to act decisively once the official numbers are published next year to take advantage of this big change.