Changes to Visa Bulletin Allow Many to File Early for Permanent Residence
The Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced jointly that certain individuals who are stuck in family and employment-based immigrant visa backlogs can start their immigrant visa paperwork or apply for adjustment of status before their priority dates become current.
With the release of the October Visa Bulletin, there are now two charts listing dates for each preference category and country of chargeability. The first is an “Application Final Action Dates” chart (Final Action Date); and the second is a “Dates for Filing Applications” chart (Filing Date). USCIS has also issued a fact sheet explaining the new procedures. Up until this change, the Visa Bulletin only listed a single chart of cut-off dates – the same one as the newly labeled “Final Action Date” chart. Now, with these changes, the following will occur:
- Immigrant Visa (Consular Processing): Applicants with priority dates earlier than the date listed on the “Filing Date” chart for their preference category and country of chargeability will be notified by the National Visa Center that they may assemble and submit their documentation and begin the immigrant visa application process earlier than expected. A final decision on the immigrant visa application will not occur until the priority date is current, however, as shown on the Final Action Date chart.
- Adjustment of Status: Applicants who are in the United States and are eligible for adjustment of status must use the “Final Action Date” chart to determine when they may submit their applications for adjustment of status, unless the Visa Bulletin indicates that they may instead use the “Filing Date” chart. The early “Filing Date” chart may only be used by adjustment applicants if it is determined that there are sufficient immigrant visas available to support the filing of additional adjustment applications beyond that which would be received under the “Final Action Date” chart.
The October 2015 Visa Bulletin permits both family and employment-based immigrants to use the “Filing Date” chart to file adjustment of status applications with USCIS during the month of October. Thus, individuals who have a priority date earlier than the “Filing Date” cut-off for the month of October may submit an adjustment of status application in October. These individuals will also be able to obtain employment authorization and advance parole as adjustment applicants. There is no guarantee that adjustment applicants will be able to benefit from the earlier “Filing Date” chart in any given month moving forward, so it is critical to file in October unless/ until the November Visa Bulletin has been released and also permits filing.
- The “Filing Date” for most of the family-based categories is less than one year and up to around two years earlier than the “Final Action Date,” with the exception of F-1 Philippines, with a difference of more than four years, and F-3 Mexico with a difference of more than two years.
- The employment-based categories most impacted by the October Visa Bulletin are:
- EB-2 India: Final Action Date = 5/1/05; Filing Date = 7/1/11
- EB-3 Philippines: Final Action Date = 1/1/07; Filing Date = 1/1/15
- EB-2 China: Final Action Date = 1/1/12; Filing Date = 5/1/14
- EB-3 China: Final Action Date = 10/15/11; Filing Date = 10/1/13
- EB-5 China: Final Action Date = 10/8/2013; Filing Date = 5/1/15
Our office is checking all of our current clients’ priority dates and will do our best to notify you as soon as possible regarding filing eligibility. We have until the end of October to submit the application/s and have plenty of staff on board to handle this. We will want to discuss particularly issues, for example if applicants are traveling outside of the U.S. and/or have recently acquired family members eligible to file. Please contact your immigration provider at our office with any questions or concerns at: 612.492.7648.