Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


Visa Bulletin Changes

Dilip Patel


The Department of State (DOS) and USCIS announced new procedural changes to the Visa Bulletin that may provide some relief to immigrant visa applicants affected by current visa backlogs. Under the new procedure, the Visa Bulletin presents information regarding immigrant visa number availability differently. Now, there are two sets of cut-off dates for both family- and employment-based immigrant visa categories, “Application Final Action Date” and “Date for Filing.”

The “Application Final Action Date” is essentially the same as the “Priority Date” cut-off date of previous years. The “Date for Filing” is new. The Department of State will use this date to determine when an immigrant visa applicant may assemble and submit required documents to the National Visa Center (NVC), following receipt of notification from the NVC. USCIS, however, will not automatically use the “Date for Filing” in adjustment of status applications. Rather, it will follow the “Application Final Action Date” chart for accepting adjustment of status applications. However, upon determining that additional immigrant visas are available, USCIS may decide to then accept adjustment applications based on the “Date for Filing” chart. USCIS expects to make that determination within a week of the posting of each new Visa Bulletin. For November 2015, USCIS has determined that applicants for adjustment may use the “Date for Filing” chart.

This new process was initially announced in September and the Visa Bulletin as published on Sept. 9, 2015 would have enabled a large number of India born applicants with approved employment based petitions to finally file their adjustment of status applications on Oct. 1. However, USCIS forced the Department of State to issue a revised bulletin on Sept. 25, 2015, which significantly reduced the number of potential applicants. A class action lawsuit has been filed by those who relied on the original bulletin, but at time of writing, there is no resolution.

While the new system does not make applicants in high-demand immigrant visa categories permanent residents any sooner – it does not eliminate the severe backlogs experienced by foreign nationals of certain countries – it will provide the opportunity for individuals to obtain employment authorization and travel documents sooner than they would otherwise, which alleviates the dependency on visas for temporary work authorization, and allows them to change employers. The new procedure also should allow cut-off dates to advance at a slower and steadier pace in contrast to the widely varying speeds with which they advanced in the past.

USCIS Proposal to Expand Provisional Waiver Program

USCIS has published proposed rules that would expand the provisional waiver process. The provisional waiver program allows foreign nationals who are eligible to apply for their green cards, but who are required to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility for having unlawful presence in the U.S., to file that application from within the U.S. rather than from abroad while awaiting approval of their visa at a U.S. consulate. In order to obtain a waiver, applicants must demonstrate “extreme hardship” to a qualifying relative. The proposals make two significant changes: First, USCIS proposes expanding the provisional waiver program to allow other immigrant visa applicants access to it. This means that all other beneficiaries of family-based petitions may apply for the waiver – currently only immediate relatives (spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens) can use the program – and it would also allow access to beneficiaries of approved employment-based petitions, diversity visa applicants, and certain “special immigrants,” as well as access to the derivative spouse and children in the above categories.

The second way that the USCIS proposes to expand the program is to allow LPR parents and spouses to be “qualifying relatives.” At the present time, only U.S. citizen parents and spouses are considered qualifying relatives.

The provisional waivers process was first implemented in March 2013. Final rules are expected to be released in conjunction with USCIS’s final policy on extreme hardship, discussed above.

Dilip Patel of Shutts & Bowen LLP, a Florida Bar board-certified expert on immigration law, can be reached at (813) 227-8178 or e-mail

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