Important Changes to Visa Bulletin

  • September 10, 2015
  • Richard Newman

On September 9, the Dept of State and USCIS jointly announced significant new procedures that will allow individuals who are stuck in the family-based or employment-based immigrant (permanent) visa backlogs to start their paperwork and apply for adjustment of status before their priority dates become available (“current”).

Background: The Visa Bulletin is issued each month by the Dept of State advising the availability of green cards (immigrant visas) for the various family-based and employment-based preference categories. Most green card cases have a filing date that represents the date on which their applications were first filed by either their family member or their employer that sponsored them. The filing date is also known as the “priority date”.  The Visa Bulletin indicates which priority dates are available for that month. Individuals with filing/priority dates that are earlier than the date listed on the Visa Bulletin can file for the final stage of their green cards, either through adjustment of status if in the U.S.; or through an immigrant visa interview if processing at the US Embassy (i.e. Consular Processing).

This change in procedures represents an important change in the long-standing rules that control when an individual can enter the final stage of their green card process. Beginning with the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, there are now two charts listing dates for each green card preference category: (1) “Final Action Date” chart; and (2) “Dates for Filing Applications” chart. Previously, the Visa Bulletin only listed a single chart of cut-off dates, which was the same as the newly labeled “Final Action Date” chart.

These changes will impact green card applicants as follows:

Adjustment of Status Applicants: In general, individuals who are in the United States and are eligible for adjustment of status must use the “Final Action Date” chart on the Visa Bulletin to determine when they may submit their applications for adjustment of status. If their priority date is earlier than the date listed on the Visa Bulletin, they can file an application for adjustment of status. However, if the “Filing Date” chart shows an earlier date, then they may file their application for adjustment earlier. The green card cannot be granted until the date listed on the “Final Action Date” chart which indicates the true availability of green cards for that category. But the ability to file in advance allows the applicant to also obtain in advance the employment authorization and advance parole travel permission issued to applicants while waiting for the final approval of their green card. This can be a great benefit to the applicant, and his or her family, if filing for green cards as dependents.

Immigrant Visa Applicants (Consular Processing):  Individuals with priority dates earlier than the date listed on the “Filing Date” chart for their preference category will be notified by the National Visa Center that they may assemble and submit their documentation and begin the immigrant visa application process. However, a final decision on the immigrant visa application cannot take place until the priority date is current (i.e. is earlier than the “Final Action Date”).

For more information or questions, please contact:
Law Office of Richard A. Newman
521 Fifth Avenue
32nd Floor
New York, NY 10175