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The U.S. Department of State (DOS) released a new, revised October Visa Bulletin today. In coordination with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), DOS is revising existing procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for immigrant visas. Under changes to the system, separate cut-off dates will be set for the filing of permanent residence petitions. This change will benefit a large number of applicants, particularly in the China and India EB-2 and EB-3 categories, who will now be able to file applications for permanent residence sooner than was possible under the previous system.
Beginning in October, the Visa Bulletin will include two separate cut-off dates for each backlogged preference category: (i) a cut-off date that identifies whether immigrant visas remain available for filing an application to adjust status with USCIS (“Dates for Filing Visa Applications”) or submitting paperwork to the National Visa Center for a consular application; and (ii) a cut-off date that will control whether a visa number remains available for issuance such that USCIS or DOS may approve an immigrant visa or application to adjust status (“Application Final Action Dates”).
A detailed Policy Analysis can be found here.
Workers from backlogged countries such as China and India will benefit in the interim from the new structure that will allow many workers to file adjustment of status applications. The cut-off date for filing permanent residence or adjustment of status applications for EB-2 China will be May 1, 2014 and for EB-3 China the date will be Oct. 1, 2013. The cut-off date for filing for the EB-2 India category will be July 1, 2011, and for workers in the EB-3 India category the date for filing will be July 1, 2005. The date for filing for EB-3 Philippines will move forward eight years to Jan. 1, 2015.
Under this new system, once the applications have been filed, USCIS will be able to adjudicate the applications for employment and travel documents. The applicant’s priority date for approval will need to become current under the approval chart (see top chart below) before the adjustment of status or permanent residence application may be adjudicated and DOS can issue a visa.
Below are the October priority dates.
Priority dates for approval of employment-based petitions:
Priority dates for filing employment-based adjustment of status applications:
BAL Analysis: The new, revised visa bulletin is a significant change to the green card process. The advancement of cut-off dates for filing of the adjustment of status application is an important step because it will allow workers and their dependents to apply for employment and travel benefits if their priority date is before the cut-off date. In addition, the worker may be eligible for green card “portability” once the adjustment of status application has been pending for more than six months.
However, numerous questions remain unanswered. For example, the government has not yet shared specific information about how it will calculate when it has received a sufficient number of applications such that it will cut off new adjustment of status filings. It is therefore difficult to predict how the new process will work on a long-term basis and what its impact will be on employees caught in the lengthy green card backlog.
BAL is carefully following this new development and will provide new updates as they come in.
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