The Department of State recently released its June Visa Bulletin, and to the shock of many people, especially those who have filed family based applications, there is major retrogression in some categories. “Retrogression,” to put things loosely, simply means that a priority date has gone back, instead of progressing further. Consequently, consular interviews and visa applications will not be scheduled or adjudicated until the visa date becomes current again. Retrogression in some employment categories has generated much attention, but the significant backward movement for family preference category F4 for siblings of nationals of India seems to have escaped notice. According to the May Visa Bulletin, the Department of State was working on cases with a priority date of July 22, 2003. However, the June Visa Bulletin indicates that the date has gone back to January 1, 2001! This essentially means that cases that would have been scheduled or heard within the next couple of months have now been pushed back more than two years.
The ramifications extend far beyond a case being delayed by another two years. For one thing, there is no way reliable way to predict the visa bulletin. The July and subsequent bulletins may show no movement at all, or worse, go back even further. More importantly, many people who would have been eligible to immigrate may potentially age out if the numbers don’t catch up soon. Derivative beneficiaries, in particular, are threatened by this development. For example, there may be children approaching their 21st birthdays. Now that the visa dates are not current, those children will continue aging (in the legal sense) and may reach 21 by the time the category opens up again. Their only hope may be in the Child Status Protection Act (“CSPA”) which, in some cases, may preserve eligibility to immigrate notwithstanding that an individual may be biologically 21 years of age or older. However, there are already children who anticipate having to use the CSPA to qualify for their visas. Contrary to popular belief, the CSPA is actually quite complicated and extends far beyond plugging in some numbers into an online calculator. Moreover, one’s adjusted age can only be estimated, but not calculated with any degree of certainty unless and until the visa date becomes current. Now that the visa date has been pushed back, this will obviously affect and change the calculations. In some cases, the numbers may project that a child may no longer qualify if things continue the way they do, while in others, the child may still have some leeway. Given how complicated these cases can be, petitioners and beneficiaries would do well to consult with experienced immigration counsel. Especially in India, the last thing one would want to do is to trust the future of their family to immigration agents, who are not licensed to practice US immigration law and who perpetuate false myths, such as a “new rule” that kids 26 and younger can still immigrate, or that consular officers will still give visas to derivative 4th preference family members 21 and older, even if they don’t qualify under the CSPA, if they write a letter for them requesting family unity.
The foregoing is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. For advice and guidance regarding your specific case or situation, please consult with an attorney.