The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced the implementation of new procedures that will decrease waiting periods for eligible adjustment of status applicants. Furthermore, the new procedure will allow the Department of State (DOS) to better predict and determine general immigration visa demand. This will subsequently provide more accurate information for determining monthly application cut-off dates in the DOS monthly Visa Bulletin. The USCIS's and DOS's goal is to maximize annually issued immigrant visas while minimizing monthly fluctuations in Visa Bulletin cut-off dates that unnecessarily slow the process. These new procedures are a direct result of President Obama's November 2014 Executive Action.
What is a Priority Date?
To understand application eligibility based on the DOS monthly Visa Bulletin, applicants must be aware of the significance of their priority date. This date governs when an applicant is able to pursue the last steps towards permanent residency (commonly known as 'obtaining a green card') by filing an adjustment of status application (if the applicant is currently in the United States) or pursuing an immigrant visa abroad. In a family-sponsored case, the priority date is determined when a relative officially files a family sponsored visa petition. For employment-based cases, the priority date is when an employer officially files a labor certification or PERM with the U.S. Department of Labor on the applicant's behalf. When a foreign national's priority date, also known as the cut-off date, becomes listed on the Visa Bulletin, he or she is eligible to file either for adjustment of status or in the case of consular cases, be scheduled for an interview abroad at the US consulate.