DOS visa bulletin disappoints tens of thousands

conditional Green CardWhen the Department of State (DOS) published its Visa Bulletin for October 2015 in early September, some 50,000 immigrants got news that they’ll quickly become eligible to move forward in taking the last step toward legal permanent resident (green card) status. By late September, DOS amended the statement– effectively dashing the hopes of those who want to be free of visa restrictions in their work.

Early in September, DOS adjusted Dates for Filing Applications for some categories in the Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based preferences. Before the month ended, though, DOS revised the guidance on the consult of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS.)  

“The Dates for Filing Applications chart is a part of the revised procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for adjustment of status that USCIS announced on Sept. 9, 2015,” according to a statement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.) After consulting with DHS about the October Visa Bulletin, which was “intended to improve the issuance of green cards,” a USCIS spokesperson elaborates; the agencies determined the revision was necessary.

A story published on CNNMoney reports the erroneous notice teased some 50,000 immigrants, most of whom hold the H-1B Visas issued to highly-skilled workers. According to the story, families who moved forward based on the false bulletin spent anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 each preparing applications.

The negative impact of the bulletin, which has already resulted in a class-action lawsuit against DOS, DHS, USCIS, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry, affects 150,000 people when considering family members, says Vikram Desai, co-founder of a nonprofit group called Immigration Voice.

The green card backlog, which is particularly high for Chinese and Indian nationals, can have immigrants standing in line for LPR status for between 10 and 70 years as the law only allows for the issuance of 140,000 green cards each year.

“The total number of people stuck in green card backlog is over 1 million … there’s something fundamentally broken,” Desai said.

For immigration attorneys helping clients work their way through the system, the DOS flub is inexcusable. “The lack of transparency in how [the government] is reaching a decision and managing this process is a significant frustration for the immigrants,” said Lyden Melmed, a partner at Berry, Appelman & Leiden in Washington and previously Chief Counsel at USCIS. “They absolutely could and should release all of their calculations.”