USCIS Announces Revised Procedures for Determining Visa Availability for Applicants Waiting to File Adjustment of Status
Every month, the Department of State (DOS) publishes current visa availability information in its Visa Bulletin, which can be found at: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin.html. The Visa Bulletin indicates when visas are available to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date. Availability means applicants are able to begin their final steps in the process of obtaining their green cards. The priority date is generally the date when the applicant’s employer or relative properly filed the immigrant visa petition on the applicant’s behalf with USCIS.
On September 9, 2015, USCIS and DOS announced that they would be making some changes to the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file adjustment of status applications (employment or family-based).
The new procedures would allow individuals to apply for adjustment of status much earlier than they normally would. They would also be able to obtain benefits for themselves and their families, such as work authorization and permission to travel.
The reason for this is to help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas is issued annually as intended by Congress, despite the long waiting periods for cases to be processed.
Prior to the changes, DOS published one chart in its visa bulletin each month that determined both when an application could be filed and when pending applications could be adjudicated. Beginning with the October 1, 2015 visa bulletin, there will be a second chart published each month, which will now govern cases that are eligible to file for adjustment of status in the United States.
There will be two charts per visa preference category:
- Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
- Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).
Each month, USCIS will post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart after determining whether additional visas are available. Applicants can use these charts to determine when they must file their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.