Visa Bulletin Fiasco Shows How USCIS Can Change Its Policy

Many people are not optimistic about their efforts to change the immigration policy or regulations of USCIS. Any change of immigration policy or regulations is advanced by pressure from many stakeholders, including employers, legislators, immigrants and immigration attorneys. The visa bulletin fiasco in the summer of 2007 fully demonstrated how USCIS could change its policy by political pressures.

On June 13, 2007, the Department of State released the Visa Bulletin for July 2007. It announced that employment-based immigration visa numbers were available for all chargeability areas and all categories, except for unskilled workers. Tens of thousands of aliens planned to submit their I-485s in July 2007. They and/or their attorneys worked hard right after the new visa bulletin was published with a hope to file their cases in July. However, the Department of State released a revision of the Visa Bulletin for July 2007 on Monday July 2, 2007. It announced that immigrant visa numbers of this year for all employment-based categories had been used and the USCIS would not accept any new I-485 filings until October 1, 2007, when the visa numbers for the fiscal year of 2008 become available. This unexpected revision smashed all the efforts from the potential applicants busying cramming for preparing their cases. This unprecedented action from the federal government caused frustration, disbelief, and complaints among immigrants. At that time, many people decided to take proactive actions instead of waiting for a change from the government.

First of all, potential applicants stood up to voice out their concern and anger. Thousands of people called or emailed their representative congressmen and/or senator to request them to get involved and push the government to change their malpractice. Many legislators stepped in and made inquiries about the issue on USCIS and Department of State. On July 3, 2007, Congressman Zoe Lofgren, Chairwoman of Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security & International Law of the US House, issued a public statement demanding the government to take some actions to fix the debacle. At the same time, the visa bulletin fiasco appeared in major media all around the country. New York Times even released some inside information in an Editorial titled “Immigration Malpractice.” It reported that USCIS was usually slow in processing I-485 cases and inaccurate in the logistics. Since 2000, 182,694 visa numbers had been wasted because USCIS did not process them in time or failed to communicate with the State Department timely. The Department of State claimed that it opened the July visa bulletin for most employment-based immigration categories to prevent visa numbers being wasted again. However, USCIS realized the open visa bulletin would create big backlogs in the processing of I-485 applications. Therefore, USCIS officers at TSC and NSC worked overtime through the weekend right before July 2, 2007 and processed over 25,000 I-485 applications on that weekend. After that, they informed the Department of State that all employment-based immigration visa numbers for the fiscal year of 2007 were exhausted. Then, the Department of State had to revise the visa bulletin on July 2. These follow-up reports in the media placed big pressure on the government agency.

Besides contacting the legislators, immigrants took further actions to voice out their anger and concerns. On July 8 and July 14, 2007. Hundreds of legal immigrants walked on the streets of San Jose, CA to protest the malpractice of the government and demand a correction of the visa bulletin fiasco. This is the first time in American history for legal, skilled workers to be organized and speak out on the streets. Two non-profit organizations, Legal Immigrant Association ( and Immigration Voice ( ) are the organizer of these two protests. Moreover, there was an operation of flower basket. Many legal immigrants sent flowers to the offices of Dr. Emilio T. Gonzalez, the Director of USCIS to plead his action on the matter.

American Immigration Lawyer Association (AILA), representing more than 10,000 immigration attorneys, also played a pivotal role in the process to force USCIS to resolve the visa bulletin issues. On July 5, it teamed up with American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF) and decided to bring a class-action lawsuit against the federal immigration agency. Although eventually AILF did not file the lawsuit because the issue was fixed at the end, no one can underestimate the effect of this planned legal action. AILA provided a channel for the government agencies to hear the feedbacks from immigration attorneys and applicants. It regularly holds liaison meetings with USCIS. As a fellow member of AILA, Zhang & Associates actively participated in activities organized by AILA. We passed and explained the class-action lawsuit information to all our clients whose cases were influenced by the visa bulletin fiasco. We also helped AILF collect potential plaintiffs for the lawsuit. In addition, we published a detailed FAQ on the lawsuit in our website and some other popular websites to disseminate this action.

In middle July, most applicants had given up the hope to file their I-485 application in the near future. We were still closely monitoring the whole event and responses from all relevant perspectives. After a thorough analysis of the situations and immigration policy making processes, we predicted in the morning of July 16 that USCIS would accept I-485    petitions in July.

Consistent with our prediction, Department of State announced on July 17, 2007 that the Visa Bulletin for July 2007 released on June 12 was valid. That means, visa numbers were available for all applicants in all employment-based immigration categories except “other workers.” The door for tens of thousands of immigrants to submit their I-485 petitions was opened again. The pressure from immigrants, employers, immigration attorneys, immigration professional organizations and legislators eventually forced the government to change its policy in favor of the immigrants. It was reported that about 300,000 applicants submitted their I-485 petitions in July and August 2007.

Legal Immigrant Association ( and Immigration Voice ( ) are planning another big rally to be held on September 18 in Washington D.C. This new rally will call the capital hill to increase H-1B visa quota and employment-based immigration visa quota. These two visa caps are the major obstacles on many highly-skilled immigrants’ road to legal work status and eventual permanent residence in this country. Our firm decided to support this rally. Mr. Matthew Graham, Bennett Wisniewski, and Attorney Jerry Zhang, from Zhang & Associates will meet Congressmen and Senators in Washington, D.C as well as attend the rally. We are calling for immigration attorneys around the country to support these lobbying efforts and attend these congressional meetings and the rally. For more details of the rally, please see our article:

Moreover, our firm recently made a pledge of $2,000 to support the AILA’s Legal Action Center and a $1,000 pledge for its New York Immigrant Achievement Awards.

Founded in 1996, Zhang & Associates, P.C. offers legal services to clients nation-wide in all aspects of U.S immigration laws. Our attorneys and supporting professionals are committed to providing high quality service to our clients. We specialize in NIW, EB-1, PERM and I-485 cases. In the past eleven years, we have successfully helped thousands of clients get green cards. If you plan to apply for a green card, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang ( for a free evaluation.   
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