A Detailed Guide on Priority Dates

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Determining Visa Availability: What Are Priority Dates?

Every year, thousands of individuals apply for United States (US) green cards, and the wait times for processing these applications can be very long. If you are seeking immigration through a green card, knowing your priority date is essential.

Your priority date signifies your position in the visa queue or green card waiting list. For family-based green cards, it is typically the date of the correct filing of your application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

In the case of most employment-based categories, it marks the date of acceptance of your labor certification application by the Department of Labor (DOL). When your priority date becomes current, you can proceed with your green card application.

If you intend to sponsor a family member for a green card, it is important to seek guidance from a qualified immigration lawyer today. They can provide invaluable assistance throughout the application process and keep you informed about the status of your priority date.

The Significance of Priority Dates

There are a limited number of immigrant visas for green card seekers issued every year for the different green card categories. For example, 140,000 employment-based preference visas and a total of 226,000 green cards are allocated for family-based petitions annually. Once their petitions are approved, green card applicants receive a priority date.

An exception to this limit is made for the immediate relatives of US citizens, including spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one, who have unlimited green card slots each year.

In addition to the annual quota, no single country can receive more than seven percent of the total available green cards yearly. When the number of applicants exceeds this per-country limit, priority dates will be used to determine where the line ends.

The remaining approved green card applications will not be considered until they fall within the following seven percent cap. As a result, countries with high populations, such as China or India, may experience longer waiting times.

Identifying Your Priority Date: How Do You Do It?

The US Department of State’s monthly visa bulletin publishes priority dates. Understanding how to read the visa bulletin is essential when you are trying to bring a spouse to the USA.

The visa bulletin provides information on the various preference categories, home countries, and their respective priory dates. This enables you to track the availability of your priority date and your position in the queue. There are two columns on the bulletin, including the “Final action dates” and the “Dates for filing applications” chart.

  • The “dates for filing” chart indicates the earliest date you can submit your green card application.

  • The “final action dates” chart indicates the date when your visa may finally be issued.

If your priority date is earlier than the cut-off date on the visa bulletin for your category, it means a visa is available for you. In the case of a “C” (Current) designation, a visa is available to all applicants in that category. In that case, you can expect to receive a National Visa Center (NVC) document concerning the next stage of the application process.

A “U” (Unauthorized) designation indicates that immigrant visa numbers for your category are not currently available.

Can You Submit Your Green Card Application Before Your Priority Date?

If you are already residing in the US, you might be eligible to submit your adjustment of status (AOS) application before your priority date becomes current. In some cases, the USCIS permits an early submission of your AOS application. If the AOS filing charts show dates similar to your priority date on the visa bulletin, you will have to wait. However, if the dates on the AOS filing chart differ, you can submit your application earlier.

Can Your Visa Priority Date Expire?

There is no expiration date for an applicant’s priority date. Once the USCIS assigns a date to your application, it will remain the same throughout your visa application process. However, you must submit your visa application following the specified cut-off dates for your category and country.

The USCIS will consider your application abandoned if you fail to do so. You will also lose your place in the green card queue, and you will have to initiate the process anew, acquiring a new priority date. If you applied for a green card through consular processing, your permanent residence will only take effect when you immigrate to the US.

Why Should You Check the Progress of Your Priority Date?

If you have a pending or approved green card petition, it is essential to check the visa bulletin regularly. Priority dates do not always move forward. The following visa bulletin could push your priority date back by a month or year. This is known as a visa retrogression. By checking your priority date monthly, you can promptly file your green card application once the date becomes current.

Do You Need Legal Help? Consult With a Reliable Immigration Attorney in Houston

Pursuing permanent residency in the US may be motivated by a desire for a better life for you and your family. However, becoming permanent residents in the US involves several complex processes.

To determine visa availability, you need to understand how to track your priority date. Therefore, consulting a knowledgeable immigration attorney to help with the process will benefit you. The legal team at Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, has extensive knowledge of immigration law and its processes. We can monitor your case and inform you when your priority date becomes current.

Additionally, we can file your green card application on your behalf. Our team can also assist you in compiling all the necessary documents that can improve your chances of getting a USCIS approval. Do you have questions concerning how priority dates work? If so, don’t hesitate to contact our attorneys, and let us guide you through your immigration journey.

The importance of priority dates in the green card application process cannot be overstated. Professional guidance from an immigration attorney can streamline your journey, ensuring that you are well-prepared to seize the opportunity when your priority date becomes current.