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July 2024 Visa Bulletin: Keep Calm and Carry On Sponsoring Nurse Green Card Cases

June 17, 2024

Foreign nationals and their sponsoring US employers eagerly await the release of the US Department of State (DOS) monthly Visa Bulletin, to confirm when they will be eligible to apply for permanent residence in the US. Updates announced in the July 2024 Visa Bulletin reflect the usual ebb and flow of visa processing queues over time and support an optimistic take on “retrogression,” despite disappointing some US employers that hoped for more immediate relief from their nurse staffing shortages.

The DOS sets the number of permanent resident “spots” available in a given fiscal year for most employer-sponsored and some family-sponsored cases, allocated based on the foreign national’s “priority date” (the date on which a petition was filed on their behalf) in both the category of employment-based sponsorship (graduate degreed professional, skilled worker) and the foreign national’s country of birth. When the number of sponsored foreign nationals exceeds the number of permanent resident spots available in each category, the DOS establishes processing queues to manage the backlog. The monthly Visa Bulletin indicates the queues for priority dates in each category. Since May 2023, the Visa Bulletin has been in “retrogression” (backlogged) in the employment-based category through which nurses qualify (EB-3), resulting in delays in most foreign nurses’ ability to apply for permanent residence in the US or to obtain immigrant visas abroad, even if the underlying sponsorship case has been approved.

The October 2023 Visa Bulletin issued at the start of the 2024 fiscal year provided relief from retrogression by significantly advancing priority dates and thereby reducing the projected wait times for immigrant visas abroad by over a year and a half (to Dec. 1, 2021). Priority dates in the EB-3 category advanced again by several months in January 2024 and April 2024. Many nurses whose priority dates became current between October 2023 and June 2024 were scheduled for immigrant visa interviews, obtained their immigrant visas, and relocated to the US as permanent residents. During this time, U.S. employers were urged to continue sponsoring nurses, to set their priority dates and their spots in the processing queues.

Although many employers were disappointed to learn that the EB-3 categories retrogressed again for July 2024, in fact, priority dates are set at Dec. 1, 2021, exactly where they were in October 2023. We expect that setting the EB-3 priority dates at Dec. 1, 2021, again will allow the DOS to catch up on visa processing between July and September 2024, and hope to see a significant priority date advancement in October 2024, just over three months from now. And if EB-3 priority dates again advance by 19 months at the start of the new fiscal year (as they did in October 2023) – this time from Dec. 1, 2021, to July 1, 2023 – many more sponsored nurses’ priority dates will become current, including nurses whose cases were filed after EB-3 retrogression began in May 2023, rewarding U.S. employers that continued to sponsor nurses despite alarmist predictions about the impact of retrogression on healthcare providers.

Because the popular EB-3 category encompasses a wide range of sponsored professions, there is good reason to expect that its processing queues will continue to retrogress and advance over time. U.S. employers are urged to continue sponsoring nurses and trust the process because although the visa processing queues ebb and flow, they never stop altogether.

For more information on how employer-sponsored nurse case processing may be impacted by the Visa Bulletin, please contact a member of the Clark Hill Healthcare Immigration team.

This publication is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a solicitation to provide legal services. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel. The views and opinions expressed herein represent those of the individual author only and are not necessarily the views of Clark Hill PLC. Although we attempt to ensure that postings on our website are complete, accurate, and up to date, we assume no responsibility for their completeness, accuracy, or timeliness.

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