The Department of State uses priority dates to control the flow of immigrant visas as these visas become available. Your priority date is established when the I-140 visa petition filed for you is received by USCIS. Only a limited number of green card (immigrant visa) numbers are available each fiscal year (beginning October 1), and the Department of State adjusts the priority dates on a monthly basis to try to control the flow of cases to have just the right number (including family members) approved by September 30. These monthly adjustments can be monitored through the DOS Visa Bulletin.

Over the past 15 years, there have generally been more immigrant visa applications by those born in the Philippines than there were visas available for people born in the Philippines, so long backlogs grew. At that time only those with I-140s that had been filed long before became eligible to get past the NVC (National Visa Center) stage and obtain an immigrant visa at the US consulate. However, in the past couple of years, the number of visa applicants decreased so the backlogs declined, and most applicants in your category (EB3 Philippines) were able to go through NVC to the consulate stage with much shorter delays.

Then last year, as the priority-date backlogs shortened and even disappeared, COVID-19, hit reducing consulate staffs and the President banned immigrant visas for most applicants, so consulates around the world reduced the issuance of immigrant visas to a tiny fraction of the number normally approved and huge new backlogs grew, even though technically all priority dates were “current”.  As of November 2021 EB3 Philippines priority dates are all “current”, and Charlie Oppenhein, who is in charge of the Visa Bulletin, says he expects that category to remain current.

DOS says they expect to increase the flow of immigrant visa interviews, and we have recently witnessed an increase in scheduled interview appointments, but the backlogs are still substantial (the current backlog at the US consulate is about 8 times as large as their “normal” backlog).