Amazing news!! The government has made good on one of its November 2014 goals for immigration reform: they have updated the methods used to estimate immigrant visa availability to improve predictability and efficiency in the process and reduce the wild fluctuations in visa availability. This is great!
What does this mean and how will it work? Effectively this should allow people to submit their adjustment applications, based on approved family- or employment-based immigrant petitions, earlier than previously allowed. Why is this? Normally, a person cannot submit their adjustment application until their priority date (usually the date their immigrant petition was filed, which indicates their place in line) is “current”. Whether the date is current is determined by checking the Department of State (DOS) Visa Bulletin issued each month. Here is the significance summarized by the USCIS:
“This revised process will enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin. This will help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.”
The government has changed the process in a great way: now the visa bulletin reflects 2 different charts in for both Family Based and Employment Based cases. The first chart is the one we are used to seeing and reflects the cutoff dates for visa numbers that are immediately available. This set is now titled “Application Final Action Dates”. Only cases with current priority dates under this chart will actually be finalized and have a visa assigned and thus the green card issued. But the second and new chart added to both the family- and employment-based visa bulletins is very exciting. Titled “Dates for Filing”, it provides another set of cutoff dates that allow people to file their adjustment of status applications (or submit their documentation to the National Visa Center if they are going through the consular process) to get their cases keyed up so that when the final action date becomes available, their applications are already in the system and ready for final adjudication.
The other great thing about this? It allows people to apply for advance parole and work authorization earlier than before.
We’ll see how this works out in practice – the hope is, the process will be smoother, more predictable, and that visa numbers will be allocated in a more reasonable way.