Good News For Backlogged Applicants Waiting to File for Green Cards

There are big changes to the October 2015 Visa Bulletin!

First, the background. The Department of State’s Visa Bulletin, issued monthly, tracks the availability of immigrant visas for persons, based on application type, country of origin, and date of the original petition for immigrant benefits. The date of the original petition (e.g. labor certification filing date, I-140 filing date, or I-130 filing date) is called a priority date. In the past, persons with a priority date could file to adjust status, or for an immigrant visa, if there date preceded or matched the date on the Visa Bulletin. This is described as a priority date becoming “current,” and  continues to be true for the issuance of permanent residence (e.g. adjustment of status approval or grant of immigrant visa).

Here’s what new: the October Visa Bulletin has a new set of charts, which set the earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply for adjustment of status or immigrant visas. So, one chart in the Visa Bulletin is a “Final Action Date,” which includes dates where priority dates are actually current.  The other chart is a “Filing Date” chart, which has the earliest date an applicaiton may be filed. In some cases, the timeframe has been moved up significantly in some backlogged categories, for when an application can be filed. Notably, the EB-3 category for Chinese nationals under the “Date for Filing Applications” moved up more than 10 years with the new chart from the September Visa Bulletin!

One of the principal advantages to filing an adjustment of status earlier is that a person may also be able to apply for a work authorization document (“EAD”) and parole. Further, spouses and children under 21 can also make these applications, as dependents. An EAD may help a spouse who previously couldn’t work, and it may be helpful to a principal applicant to take concurrent employment and otherwise have greater workplace mobility. Also, an EAD is generally less costly for employers than H-1Bs, and so employers may be interested in assisting with adjustments.

There’s a good chance there will be a rush of applications, and that may impact the dates which are later set for accepting applications. The dates in the Visa Bulletin are products of statutory-set quotas and actual demand. In general, and based on past history with the Visa Bulletin, there is cause to consider filing adjustments as soon as the agency will accept them. Each case though has to be examined individually, and costs, risks, and benefits assessed accordingly.

These changes are potentially big for those impacted. The overall quota of immigrant visas still needs to be adjusted, but this is for Congress. USCIS says in the press release below that the changes to the Visa Bulletin and USCIS policy implement one of the November 2014 executive actions announced by President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson.  Other executive actions on immigration have been successfully challenged and delayed in court. We will have to wait and see if these changes prompt litigation. It’s possible. In the meantime, this is good news for those who may be able to file adjustment of status sooner than anticipated.

Here’s the USCIS announcement on the changes:

USCIS Announces Revised Procedures for Determining Visa Availability for Applicants Waiting to File for Adjustment of Status

USCIS, in coordination with Department of State (DOS), is revising the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status. The revised process will better align with procedures DOS uses for foreign nationals who seek to become U.S. permanent residents by applying for immigrant visas at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad.

This revised process will enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin. This will help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.
The Visa Bulletin revisions implement November 2014 executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson, as detailed in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, issued in July 2015.

What is Changing

Two charts per visa preference category will be posted in the DOS Visa Bulletin:

• Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
• Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).

Each month, in coordination with DOS, USCIS will monitor visa numbers and post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart. Applicants can use the charts to determine when to file their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

To determine whether additional visas are available, USCIS will compare the number of visas available for the remainder of the fiscal year with:

• Documentarily qualified visa applicants reported by DOS;
• Pending adjustment of status applications reported by USCIS; and
• Historical drop off rate (for example, denials, withdrawals, abandonments).

About the Visa Bulletin

DOS publishes current immigrant visa availability information in a monthly Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date.
• The priority date is generally the date when the applicant’s relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on the applicant’s behalf with USCIS. If a labor certification is required to be filed with the applicant’s immigrant visa petition, then the priority date is when the labor certification application was accepted for processing by Department of Labor.
• Availability of an immigrant visa means eligible applicants are able to take one of the final steps in the process of becoming U.S. permanent residents.

Learn more about adjustment of status and the Visa Bulletin on our website (