EB-3 Priority Dates: A Major Retrogression for Indian Nationals – Understanding What This Means For You


In July 2023, the U.S. Department of State released a visa bulletin that reported a significant retrogression in the EB-3 category for Indian nationals. The Final Action date for EB-3 retrogressed to January 1, 2009. This retrogression has implications for Indian nationals who have been waiting for their green cards, and it is crucial to understand what this means and how it might affect you

Understanding the Visa Bulletin:
The U.S. Department of State releases a visa bulletin each month which summarizes the availability of immigrant visas, both for consular processing and adjustment of status applications. It outlines the Final Action Dates and Date of Filing Applications for Employment-Based and Family-Based immigrant visas. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines which chart applicants must use to file their Adjustment of Status Application (AOS)

EB-3 Category and Retrogression:
The EB-3 category encompasses skilled workers, professionals, and “other workers.” In the July 2023 visa bulletin, a significant retrogression was reported for Indian nationals in this category. The Final Action date for EB-3 for Indian nationals fell back to January 1, 2009. This means that Indian nationals in the EB-3 category with a priority date (the date when your immigrant petition was filed) later than January 1, 2009, cannot proceed with the final steps of obtaining a green card for now.

The EB-3 Retrogression Impact:
This retrogression indicates a higher-than-expected demand from applicants with priority dates earlier than the final action dates listed. As a result, the Department of State has noted that it’s likely all available EB-3 India visa numbers will be exhausted by the end of the month due to robust usage during the past fiscal year.

Why Is This Happening?
The U.S. has annual limits on immigrant visa numbers, and these are allocated per fiscal year with a minimum of 140,000 to EB preference categories. Furthermore, the law imposes a per country numerical limit each fiscal year: the number of immigrants from a single country cannot be greater than 7% of the total number of people who immigrated to the United States that year. The high demand for EB-3 visas from Indian nationals, coupled with these limits and processing delays, has resulted in this significant retrogression.

The implications of this retrogression are considerable for Indian nationals, particularly those who are in the U.S. in H-1B status and are applying for green cards. This long wait for immigrant visa numbers places their children at risk of “aging out” of both their H-4 status and eligibility for a green card.

What Next?
The future movement of the EB-3 category for Indian nationals is uncertain, and it is possible that no significant forward movement may occur for some time. At the end of Fiscal Year 2022, it was estimated that there were 13,870 available EB-3 visa numbers (not subject to the per country cap). However, the demand for India EB-3 visas in October 2021 was significantly higher at 44,751. This discrepancy between supply and demand continues to pose challenges for Indian nationals waiting for their EB-3 category green cards.

The significant retrogression in the EB-3 category for Indian nationals is a development that has far-reaching implications for many waiting for their green cards. While this news is disheartening, it is essential to stay informed and understand the complex factors that contribute to these changes. It’s also worth exploring alternatives and understanding the various options available. For example, the law could be changed to allow any numbers unused in a fiscal year to spill over to the next and recapture numbers lost in past years. Another option would be for the agencies to change their current interpretation of the law, with proper notice, so that separate visa numbers are no longer required for the spouse and children, thereby freeing up visa numbers for individuals.

If you have questions regarding your priority date or need advice on navigating the immigration process, please consult with an immigration attorney or expert.