As previously reported on the Joseph & Hall P.C. Blog, the U.S. State Department published on September 9, 2015 its monthly Visa Bulletin containing major, long-awaited changes to the government’s visa issuance process. Perhaps the most substantial and welcome change was the addition of a date on which applicants can submit adjustment of status applications. This “filing date” comes before the estimated date on which actual adjudication of the petition will occur.
In reliance on the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, many eligible applicants began assembling adjustment of status applications, excited to be moving forward in their processes and also at the prospect of obtaining employment authorization for the duration of their wait. Many of these applicants had been waiting one or two decades for this moment.
On September 25, less than four days before USCIS was to begin accepting applications under the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, the Department of State suddenly revised the Visa Bulletin. The revisions caused many filing and priority dates to retrogress, leaving potential applicants stunned.
In response, on September 28, 2015, a class of plaintiffs filed a complaint in District Court seeking reinstatement of the earlier visa bulletin. The first sentences of the complaint left us cheering and summarized the case as follows: “This case is about what happens when thousands of law-abiding, highly skilled immigrants spend millions of dollars preparing to apply for green cards in reasonable reliance on an agency’s binding policy statement, only to find out at the last minute that a hapless federal bureaucracy has abruptly, inexplicably, and arbitrarily reneged on its promise.”
The Complaint also points out that the Department of State fails each year to issue thousands of immigrant visas authorized by Congress. The process for allocating visas is inexplicably complicated, but the bottom line is that it is completely ineffective and inefficient to have thousands of unused visas each year despite heavy demand. We saw a glimmer of rationality and modernization when the Department of State issued the first version of the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, but the Department quickly reverted to its antiquated ways. Hopefully the blistering class action complaint will result in a return to reason.
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