What is the Immigration Quota Backlog?

By on Jul 24, 2013 in Articles |

The following is a discussion about the Employment-Based Immigration Quota system, including definitions and significance of the Quota Backlog and Cut-off Date. It also discusses leading predictions/theories and the benefits of filing under EB-1 or EB-2.

A. The Immigration Quota System

The U.S. accepts immigrant visa petitions filed for people from countries worldwide based upon an annual quota system. Each month, the U.S. State Department (DOS) calculates how many immigrant visa petitions were filed for nationals from every country worldwide.

B. The Quota Backlog System

Sometimes the number of immigrant visas petitions which were filed the previous month for people from a particular country exceeds the number of immigrant visas available under the annual quota. The quota backlog system permits people to continue filing immigrant visa petitions beyond the annual quota limitation and preserves their place in line while they wait for additional immigrant visas to become available under the quota system, but does not permit people to complete their immigration case (by filing Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing) until a quota number is actually available. Each person’s place in line is determined by the date the Labor Certification or Immigrant Visa Petition was filed, whichever is earlier. This date is called the Priority Date.  A person’s Priority Date fixes their place in line while waiting for additional immigrant visa numbers to become available under the quota system.

C. The Quota Cut-off Date

The cut-off date controls how many people waiting in line may apply for Adjustment of Status. Specifically, every 30 days, DOS calculates how many immigrant visas are available under the quota and adjusts the cut-off date depending upon how many quota numbers remain available (if any) based upon the previous month’s demand (or lack of demand). The cut-off date is published monthly in the State Department’s Visa Bulletin. If immigrant visa numbers are still available, DOS will advance the cut-off date to permit more people waiting in line to file for Adjustment of Status. Sometimes DOS makes a mistake by moving the cut-off date too far forward. When that happens DOS must move the cut-off date backwards to stop the filing and processing of Adjustment of Status applications until more quota numbers become available.

Because no one knows how many immigrant visa petitions will be filed next month, the quota cut-off date has historically progressed and regressed (gone backwards) unpredictably.

D. Quota Cut-off Date: Application to Your Case and Predictions

For purposes of illustration, if a person from India filed a Labor Certification or Immigrant Petition on or before January 1, 2008, he or she would have been waiting in the quota backlog for 5.5 years through July 2013.  However, the August 2013 Visa Bulletin now shows that this same person’s Priority Date (on or before January 1, 2008) will become current on August 1, 2013.  On that date, he or she will be permitted to file for Adjustment of Status to Permanent Resident.

DOS is currently predicting that the quota backlog will continue to progress slowly due to heavy demand.  Immigration Reform may change that dramatically.  However, this illustrates the importance of securing an employee’s place in line with respect to the quota by sponsoring them for immigration at the earliest.