TESTIMONY OF CHARLES OPPENHEIM, CHIEF, VISA CONTROL AND REPORTING DIVISION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mr. OPPENHEIM. Hello. Chairwoman Lofgren, Ranking Member King, and distinguished Members of the Committee, it is a pleasure to be here this afternoon to answer your questions and provide an overview of the immigrant visa control and reporting program
which is operated by the Department of State. The Department of State is responsible for administering the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act which relate to the numerical limitations on immigrant visa number use, and I will briefly describe that process.
At the beginning of each month, the Visa Office receives a report from each consular office abroad listing the total of documentarily
qualified immigrants who are subject to numerical limitation. These cases are provided by foreign state chargeability, preference,
class, and priority date. The foreign state chargeability refers to the per country limitation to which the immigrant visa applicant will be charged and is generally the foreign state or dependent area to which the applicant was born. Exceptions are provided for a child or a spouse to prevent the separation of family members, as well as for an applicant born in the United States or in a foreign state of which neither parent was a native or resident.
Alternate chargeability is desirable in the issuance of visas when a parent or spouse has a more advantageous place of birth than
that of the applicant’s. The preference is the visa class established by the Immigration and Nationality Act to which the applicant may be assigned based on relationship to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents or employment status.
Immigrant classifications fall into two basic categories: unlimited, such as immediate relatives, and numerically limited, such as family employment cases. The preference classes which are being discussed today are strictly the numerically limited. The priority date is normally the date on which the petition to accord the applicant immigrant status was filed.
The Visa Office subdivides the annual preference and foreign state limitations specified by the Immigration Nationality Act into monthly allotments. The totals of qualified applicants which have been reported to the Visa Office are compared each month with the
numbers available for the next regular allotment.
The determination of visa number availability requires the consideration of several variables. These include past number use, estimates of future number use, return rates, and estimates of U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services demand based on cut-off date movements. If sufficient numbers are available in a particular category to satisfy all qualified demand, the category is considered ‘‘current.’’ For example, if the monthly allocation target is 10,000 and we only have 5,000 applicants, then the category can become ‘‘current.’’ Whenever the total of qualified applicants in a category exceeds the supply of numbers available for a particular month, the category is considered to be ‘‘oversubscribed,’’ and a visa availability cut-off date is established. The cut-off date is the priority date of the first qualified applicant who could not be accommodated for a visa number that month. For example, if the monthly target were once again 10,000 and we had 25,000 applicants, then we would need to establish a cutoff date so that only 10,000 numbers would be allocated, and the cut-off date would be the priority date of the 10,001st applicant. Therefore, only persons with a priority date earlier than the established cut-off date are entitled to allotment of a visa number. Once the above factors have been taken into consideration, the cut-off dates for the following month are established. They are immediately transmitted to overseas posts and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office and are also published in the ‘‘Visa Bulletin’’ and online at the consular affairs Web site. I have submitted a copy of the latest ‘‘Visa Bulletin’’ for the record. Visa allotments for the month that are transmitted to posts must be returned if they are not used, and the numbers are provided in priority date order with the oldest reported first.
Citizenship and Immigration Services Office requests are based on an adjustment of status cases for which all clearance processing
has been completed. The National Visa Center, which is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, provides administrative support for the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad that process immigrant visas. Approved immigrant visa petitions are sent by the U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services directly to this center for initial screening, recordkeeping instructions to visa applicants prior to being forwarded to overseas posts for further processing. If an applicant’s party date does not allow the case to be forwarded
overseas, then the petition is stored at the center.
As of March 27, 2007, over 2.7 million active family immigrant cases were on file at the National Visa Center and almost 60,000
employment-based applicants were on file at the center. These totals include both principal applicants and their derivatives and
spouses since each requires the use of a visa number. I thank you for the opportunity to testify today and would welcome