The USCIS has released their I-485 Inventory Report of pending cases as of January 2011. The USCIS I-485 Inventory Report displays the total number of pending adjustment of status applications, per preference category, priority date and per country. The USCIS also issued separate charts for India, China, Mexico and the Philippines as those countries historically have higher demand for visas and reach their yearly quota.

The Inventory Report shows a total of 44,475 EB2 cases and 127,493 EB3 cases.  However, the breakdown by country is most interesting:

 EB2 (2nd Preference)EB3 (3rd Preference)
All Others7,89747,627

Also, the breakdown by priority date shows 2007 as the first year where the number of EB2 and EB3 cases are almost equal (15,918 EB2 cases and 16,711 EB3 cases).  This compares to a disparity of 18,850 EB2 cases to 37,412 EB3 cases with 2006 priority dates and a huge disparity of 774 EB2 cases to 29,567 EB3 cases with 2005 priority dates.

Keep in mind that the world-wide level for employment-based green cards is at least 140,000 per year. The breakdown by country and category is significant because the first preference, second preference and third preference categories each get 28.6% of the overall limit and there is a per-country limit of 7% of the overall total. Any unused numbers from a category trickle down to the next lower category and across the countries in that category.

The I-485 Inventory Chart can not be used as a sole basis for predicting visa availability. Instead, one must also consider the NVC Inventory Report (last issued in the Fall 2010), the pending I-140 cases categorized by country and priority date, the approved I-140 cases since summer 2007 (the last time of full visa availability) categorized by country and priority date, and to a lesser extent, the number of pending PERM cases categorized by country and priority date (although that inventory is less important because it will contain more recent priority dates since 2009).

However, when coupled with the other reports, here are a few conclusions:

1.  Philippines should move forward much more rapidly than India, China and all other categories.  Although the NVC inventory chart from the fall 2010 showed the Philippines with the highest number of EB3 cases (44,903) that includes an accumulation of many years of cases.  For example, a vast majority of EB3 Philippines are professional nurses which don’t normally qualify for H-1b but get to bypass the PERM labor certification process. Thus, the NVC inventory number for the Philippines would include most approved I-140’s. Furthermore, the low number of EB2 Filipino cases provides for more visa numbers to trickle down to the EB3 Filipino category.

2.  Within a few years we may begin to see less disparity between EB2 and EB3 cases. Last quarter the USCIS reported that they had approximately 60,000 cases that have “upgraded” from EB3 to EB2.  That means the EB3 line will eventually be less clogged, while the EB2 category will become more clogged – although EB2 should continue to fair better than EB3, it may not be with such a wide disparity.

3.  There are better days in the long-term for visa availability. The visa backlog continues to suffer from the high volume of filings in the early to mid 2000’s due to a booming economy, 245i filings that were backlogged at the state level, the implementation of the PERM system, backlog reduction efforts on I-485 cases around 2005-2006, and the influx of filings in the summer of 2007 (“visagate”).  However, the number of filings at the Department of Labor and USCIS has significantly decreased in the last two years.  What’s the result?  Once we get passed the hurdle of the 2003-2007 cases, we should begin to see a significant improvement in processing times.