The Recent Change in the DOS Visa Bulletin: How it May Help You
Contributor: Van T. Doan
While the federal government has announced an initiative to modernize the visa process in the United States, anyone mired in the backlog of employment-based and family-based immigrant visas knows that change has been slow in coming. However, there is some encouraging news.
On September 9, 2015, the United States Department of State (DOS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced new procedures that will allow many people to get started on their applications for adjustment of status or begin their immigrant visa paperwork before their priority date becomes current.
The monthly visa bulletin issued by DOS summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers during a given month. Until now, the visa bulletin offered only one chart of cut-off dates for each preference category. As of the October 2015 bulletin, however, there will be two dates: an “Application Final Date“ (Final Action Date), and a “Dates for Filing Applications” chart (Filing Date). This change will allow many people to file early for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
How the Change Affects Immigrant Visa Applicants
Some individuals will have priority dates that are earlier than the date listed for their preference category and country of chargeability on the Filing Date chart. The National Visa Center will notify those individuals that they are able to begin the immigrant visa application process. They will be able to file their applications sooner than would have been possible under the previous process. However, their permanent residence still cannot be approved until the Final Action Date.
The early filing of the application will allow those people who are in the United States, but in a holding pattern due to visa backlogs, to be eligible for employment authorization and receive travel documents while final action on their cases is pending. This is particularly significant for family-based applicants, since they will be able to work sooner and contribute to the financial stability of their families.
How the Change Affects Adjustment of Status Applicants
Those individuals who are present in the United States, and who are eligible for adjustment of their status, must generally use the Final Action Date chart to find out when they may apply for adjustment of status. However, the Filing Date chart may be used under certain specific circumstances, i.e., if USCIS has decided that there are enough immigrant visas available to allow the filing of more adjustment applications than what would be permitted under the Final Action Date chart. For October 2015, both family- and employment-based immigrants are permitted to use the Filing Date chart to file adjustment of status petitions.
Who is Most Affected?
For most of the family-based categories, the Filing Date ranges from less than one year to around two years earlier than the Final Action Date. Exceptions are F-1 Philippines applicants, with a difference of over four years between the dates, and F-3 Mexico applicants, whose difference is over two years.
The employment-based categories most affected include EB-2 and EB-3 applicants from China, EB-2 applicants from India, and EB-3 applicants from the Philippines.
If you would like to learn more about how the change in the October 2015 visa bulletin may affect you, please contact Howard County, MD immigration lawyer Van T. Doan.
Categories: Immigration Law