A new rule will allow family and employment-based Green Card applicants to apply for a change of immigration status earlier than previously possible.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in coordination with the Department of State (DOS), announced on September 9 a change in the process for determining visa availability for immigrants seeking “adjustment of status,” or a change of immigration status from temporary to permanent.
The change—effective October 1—applies to Green Card applicants with employment or family-based petitions in backlogged preference categories, allowing them to submit applications for early pre-processing before their priority date is current. the New systems is released in the October Visa Bulletin issued by the US Department of State. It includes both a series of “filing” cutoff dates and a series of “final action” (or approval) cutoff dates. The former indicates when intending immigrants may file their applications for adjustment of status or immigrant visa; the latter indicates when an adjustment of status application or immigrant visa application may be approved and permanent residence granted.
The new rule delivers on a promise made by President Obama in November 2014 as part of his executive actions on immigration. According to USCIS, the 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.”
From a practical point of view, the process will allow many foreign nationals to file for adjustment of status and obtain employment authorization (EAD card) and travel documents years earlier than previously possible. It is huge benefit for persons from China and India, the traditionally backlogged countries. Such persons previously faced delays of several years before becoming eligible to file adjustment of status or immigrant visa applications. The change also has benefits for US companies, including administrative, sponsorship, and filing fee cost savings.
Visas for family-sponsored and employment-based preference petitions are limited.
Under the prior system, the DOS’s Visa Bulletin listed only one date: the filing date and final action dates were the same. The new system will contain two separate charts: one for “Application Final Action Dates” (the earliest dates an application can be approved) and another for “Dates for Filing Applications” (the dates when adjustment of status applications can be filed and remain pending until the Final Action Date).
To see the differences, compare the current September 2015 Visa Bulletin with the upcoming October 2015 visa bulletin.
Note that Visa Bulletin numbers are subject to change monthly and that waiting times depend on the number of applicants with priority dates for each country. In most cases, only applicants currently in the U.S. can apply for employment or family-based adjustment of status, although certain exceptions apply.
You can learn more about the new rule change from the following USCIS resources:
Get Up to Speed on the New Law. Speak with Immigration Attorney Catherine Brown.
The visa bulletin adjustments are an exciting improvement to the legal immigration system, but the updated procedures are a bit complicated. Whether you’re an employer or an applicant, working with an experienced immigration lawyer ensures that you can take full advantage of the new rule.
Colorado immigration attorney Catherine Brown has more than 13 years of legal experience and has practiced immigration law exclusively since 2002. Our firm specializes in helping foreign nationals with employment and family-based visas and adjustment of status in Colorado. Learn how we can help you during a consultation.