A Detailed Guide on Visa Priority Date

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Understanding Visa Priority Date

A visa priority date is a specific date assigned to an individual who has applied for an immigrant visa. This date serves as a placeholder for the allocation of green cards or permanent resident status. Visa priority dates are determined based on the type of visa and the country of origin.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses a system known as the Priority Date Checker to determine how long an individual must wait before being able to apply for a green card.


Types of Visa Priority Dates

Family-based Visas

For family-sponsored immigrant visas, the priority date is assigned based on the date the U.S. citizen or permanent U.S. dependent sponsor filed the petition. This date determines the order in which individuals will receive their green cards.

Employment-based Visas

For employment-sponsored immigrant visas, the priority date is assigned based on the date that the Labor Certification Application (LCA) was filed with the Department of Labor. This date also determines the order in which individuals will receive their green cards.

Diversity Visa Lottery

For diversity visa lottery winners, the priority date is determined by the date their application was selected in the annual visa lottery. These individuals have limited time to apply for their green card before their priority date becomes invalid.

Determining Visa Availability: What Are Priority Dates?


Thousands of individuals apply for United States (U.S.) green cards yearly, and the wait times for processing these applications can be very long. If you are seeking immigration through a green card, knowing your visa 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 U.S. 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). You can proceed with your green card application when your priority date becomes current.

If you intend to sponsor a family member for a green card, it is essential 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


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

An exception to this limit is made for the immediate relatives of U.S. 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 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 U.S. Department of State’s monthly visa bulletin publishes priority dates. Understanding how to read the visa bulletin is essential when bringing a spouse to the USA.

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

  • The “dates for filing” chart indicates the earliest you can submit your green card application.
  • The “final action dates” chart indicates 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 visa bulletin) 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 already reside in the U.S., you might be eligible to submit your adjustment of status (AOS) application before your current priority date. In some cases, the USCIS permits an early submission of your AOS application. You will have to wait if the AOS filing charts show dates similar to your priority date on the visa bulletin. However, if the dates on the AOS filing chart differ, you can submit your application earlier.


Can Your 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 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 U.S.


WhyU.Should You Check the Progress of Your Priority Date?

If you have a pending or approved green card petition, checking the visa bulletin regularly is essential. 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. You can promptly file your green card application once the date becomes current by checking your priority date monthly.


Tips for Keeping Track of Your Priority Date


To avoid any delays or setbacks in your green card application process, it is crucial to stay informed about the progress of your priority date. You can do so by:

  • Subscribing to the DOS automatic email notification service for visa bulletins.

  • Checking your lawyer’s website or blog for updates on preference and priority dates.

  • Communicating regularly with your employer or family member who petitioned for you.

  • Seeking guidance from an experienced immigration attorney who can provide accurate and timely updates on your priority date.


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


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

You need to understand how to track your priority date to determine visa availability. 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 to 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 you are well-prepared to seize the opportunity when your priority date becomes current.