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Why Do the Preference/Employment Quotas Slow Down In August and September?

By now many people have noticed that several employment preference quotas for immigrant visas (and to some extent family quotas) have slowed down in the Visa Bulletin for August 2023.  We anticipate a continued slowdown in the September Bulletin as well.

Why does this happen almost every year? 

The Federal Government’s fiscal year begins on October 1 of each year (not January 1 like the rest of the world).  October 1 is the day when Congress issues all of the immigrant visas (preference categories and immediate relatives) and non-immigrant visas such as the H-1, H-2A, etc.  And since all of these visas (except for immediate relatives) are finite, such as 85,000 H-1s each year for the H-1 lottery, they will run out at some point during the fiscal year, usually towards the end of the year in August and September.  

With non-immigrant visas the number allocated by Congress is

used every year so the visa category starts over from nothing on September 30 to a full allotment on October 1.  

However, the immigrant visas do not start over. Many years ago the US State Department started a quota system of these permanent resident visas.  So, for these visas, we have created “waiting lists†called quotas.  And some of these lists are very long (for example EB-3 employment visas for Indian natives are over ten years on the waiting list). 

All of this background information means that during the end of the Federal Government’s fiscal year, in August and September, the State Department runs out of visas for that year which pushes the waiting list back.  The immigrant visas do not “start over†like non-immigrant visas. The State Department and USCIS use the quota system instead. Some categories can move back for two years or more.

The good news is that on October 1 each year, Congress will release all of the immigrant and non-immigrant visas for that year.  This means, for immigrant visas, that the waiting times should move up to where they were before the backward movement in August and September.  We should have the October Visa Bulletin in the middle of September and that will tell us if we will recapture the time lost this month and next month. 

As always, if you have any questions, please email me at [email protected].  Thank you.