UPDATE: Early Filing of Permanent Residence Application due to Changes to Visa Availability Procedures

On September 9, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State revised the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for adjustment of status. These revised procedures are the result of the immigration executive actions announced by President Obama in November 2014 and will affect both employment-based and family-sponsored preference categories.

There are now two charts with important dates listed on the monthly Visa Bulletin: the Dates for Filing Applications chart and the Application Final Actions Dates chart. The “filing date” determines when foreign nationals may submit their permanent residence applications; and the “final action” date determines when the Department of State or USCIS can make a decision on the applications.

If the foreign national has a “priority date” earlier than the listed “filing date” for their particular preference category and country, they will be able to file their applications for permanent residence earlier than would have been permitted under the old process. However, they will still have to wait for the “final action” date to become current before permanent residence can be approved. The “priority date” is the date when the Application for Labor Certification (PERM) was filed or the date the Immigrant Petition (I-140) was filed, whichever is earlier.

While waiting for the final action date to become current (final action on their cases), foreign nationals now have the opportunity to receive employment authorization and travel documents. Though most individuals stuck in the employment-based backlogs already have employment authorization through an existing temporary visa (H-1B, AC 21 104(c) extensions), this procedural change will give them greater flexibility and job mobility while allowing them to maintain their status. In addition, this procedural change will also cut down on the expense and need to file for “interim” visas and consular processing of new visa stamps.

If you have questions about the information included in this update, or wish to discuss filing an application, please contact us. .