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Visa Retrogression: What, Why, When, How?

Understanding processing times of immigrant visas can be tricky. When retrogression is added to the equation, many people find themselves feeling lost in sea of dates. At the Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, our attorneys have decades of combined experience in interpreting processing times. Contact us today for help with understanding where you stand on the road to permanent residence.

What is Visa Retrogression?

Simply stated, visa retrogression occurs when the cut-off date for visa availability moves back in time to an earlier cut-off date.

Why does Visa Retrogression occur?

In order to be eligible to receive a green card, the visa for which you applied must be available. Congress sets the annual limit for the total number of immigrant visas that may be issued each year. This annual limit is divided among each visa category and a percentage of the number of visas in a particular category is further divided among the nations of chargeability. Finally, the total number of visas in a particular category available in a particular nation of chargeability for the fiscal year is allocated to each month. If there are enough visas available in a particular category for a particular nation to meet the demand of that visa for the month, then an immigrant visa will be available to those applicants. However, if more visa applications are filed than there are available visas for that category and nation, then the visa category is oversubscribed, and the visa applications in excess of the available visas are placed in queue to receive an immigrant visa. Your position in the visa queue is determined by your priority date.

For oversubscribed categories, the Department of State Visa Office (VO) sets a “cut-off” date for each month in the fiscal year. If your priority date falls before the cut-off date, then your priority date is current and you are therefore eligible to apply for adjustment of status. However, sometimes the number of visa applications received in a particular month exceeds the VO’s expectations. When this happens, the VO will retrograde the priority date cut-off to more accurately reflect the processing times given the unanticipated increased demand. Retrogressing the cut-off date allows the USCIS officers to catch up on adjudicating the excess pending applications that were received for the month.

For more information about the allocation of immigrant visas and processing times, click here.

When does Visa Retrogression occur?

Retrogression occurs when the demand for a particular immigrant visa for a particular nation exceeds the availability of that particular visa. Retrogression often happens towards the end of the fiscal year (between July and September), as the annual limits are reached sooner than anticipated. When the new fiscal year starts on October 1 of each year, the cut-off dates tend to progress to the pre-retrogression dates as a new supply of visas is available for the year.

How does USCIS process Visa Retrogression cases?

Your priority date must be current both at the time you file your adjustment of status application and when your application is being adjudicated. If your priority date was current in one month, but not in a future month, and you failed to file your I-485 application when it was current, then you must wait to file until your priority date becomes current again.

If the cut-off date regresses after you have properly filed your application to adjust status with the USCIS, a USCIS field office will continue to process your case to determine your eligibility to receive a green card. While USCIS will continue to process your case, your case cannot be approved your priority date is current. In the meantime, the USCIS field office will conduct and complete any necessary interviews and requests for additional evidence; ensure all security and background checks have been completed; and confirm that the eligibility and documentary requirements have been met. If, after this process, it appears that you are eligible to receive a green card, then your case will be held in abeyance until your priority date is current and a visa number is available to you. During this period of abeyance, you may remain in the United States and seek certain benefits, such as an employment authorization document and advanced parole.

Keep in mind, although your case cannot be approved until your priority date again falls before the cut-off date, USCIS may still deny your case if it is determined that you are ineligible to adjust status for a reason unrelated to visa availability.

Contact Us

If you have been affected by Visa Retrogression and would like to learn more about what this means for you, contact us today to consult with one of our experienced attorneys. We can help you better understand how to handle visa retrogression and ensure that you are able to take advantage of the immigration benefits available to you.

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