USCIS and the U.S. State Department (DOS) have announced a major change to the monthly Visa Bulletin that will allow some individuals subject to lengthy quota backlogs to file adjustment of status (AOS) or immigrant visa (IV) applications much sooner than under the previous procedures.
Effective with the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, the bulletin will now contain two different charts for each visa preference category that essentially create two different priority date cutoffs. The first chart will be the priority dates eligible for “Application Final Action,” i.e. when an AOS application may be approved or an IV issued. The second chart will be the priority dates eligible for “Filing Applications,” i.e. when an AOS or IV application may be filed. Each month, USCIS and DOS will monitor immigrant visa usage and adjust both the “Application Final Action Dates” and the “Dates for Filing Applications” accordingly.
An application filed pursuant to the “Dates for Filing Applications” chart in a given month will remain pending until the associated priority date becomes current according to the “Application Final Action Dates” chart, at which time the agency responsible will make a final determination on the application.
It is important to note that the “Dates for Filing Applications” are valid only for consular processing immigrant visa applications unless the visa bulletin specifically indicates that USCIS will allow AOS filings consistent with those dates. USCIS will determine whether there are enough immigrant visas available in each category to allow the filing of additional AOS applications. If so, the visa bulletin will state that “USCIS has determined that this chart may be used … this month for filing applications for adjustment of status with USCIS.” USCIS will also post the current “Dates for Filing Applications” charts on its website within two days of the release of the monthly visa bulletin. USCIS has stated that they will allow AOS filings pursuant to the “Dates for Filing Applications” chart listed in the October 2015 Visa Bulletin.
Although this will not accelerate when permanent status can be granted, this is an important and welcome change for the many thousands of people who have approved immigrant visa petitions (Form I-130 or I-140), but are subject to the often severely oversubscribed quotas. This is especially true for nonimmigrant workers, many of whom will benefit from greater employment flexibility and the availability of ancillary benefits, such as employment authorization and simplified travel authorization for themselves and their dependent family members.
Turning to the new October 2015 Visa Bulletin, one can quickly see the improvement, especially in the employment-based categories. As of October 1, some of the “Application Final Action Dates” will advance quite a bit, including EB-2 China (six years), EB-3 China (six years, 10 months), and EB-3 Philippines (over seven years). This is mainly due to the full annual allotment of immigrant visas becoming available with the start of the new fiscal year.
Amazingly, the “Application Final Action Dates” for nationals of India will regress by several months to May 1, 2005 (EB-2) and March 8, 2004 (EB-3). However, the new procedures provide the intended and much needed relief as the “Dates for Filing Applications” in those categories are well ahead of the Final Action Dates, specifically July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2005, respectively.
In the family-based preference categories, the “Application Final Action Dates” again advanced at least a few weeks, consistent with past visa bulletins. However, the “Dates for Filing Applications” range from 11 months to more than four years ahead of the Final Action Date cutoff. For example, the Final Action Date in the family-based first preference (F-1) category for nationals of the Philippines is June 1, 2001, but the Date for Filing is September 1, 2005.
You can view the visa bulletin in its entirety below. Please contact us with any questions.
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