New Visa Bulletin Changes the Way to File for Green Cards
For years, the U.S. Department of State has published the Visa Bulletin, which controls when people can file for permanent residence (green cards) based on family-based and employment-based petitions. However, with the new Visa Bulletin's format, it can be difficult to determine when you can file.
Understand the Visa Bulletin's purposeImagine that the United States only has a certain number of green cards available each year to potential applicants. Being the spouse, minor child, or parent of a U.S. Citizen means that you never have to wait - you are considered an "immediate" relative and are eligible to apply for your green card "immediately" after the approval of your relative petition, or sometimes, even earlier. However, adult children, relatives of permanent residents (those with green cards), and siblings of U.S. Citizens are not considered as high a priority. The remaining green cards are split among these people, giving the most to the categories Immigration feels is the most important to reunite with their U.S. Citizen or permanent resident relative.
Understand your Priority CategoryThese categories are:
- First (F1): Unmarried children over 21 of U.S. Citizens
- Second, part A (F2A): Spouses and minor children of Permanent Residents
- Second, part B (F2B): Unmarried children over 21 of Permanent Residents
- Third (F3): Married children of U.S. Citizens
- Fourth (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens
The same can be said for employment-based applications. Immigration has prioritized these applications as well, in terms of who they believe are a priority:
- First: Priority workers
- Second: Professionals with Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability
- Third: Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers
- Fourth: Special Immigrants
- Fifth: Employment creation
Understanding the ChangesThe Visa Bulletin, published each month, lists the dates by which a person waiting their turn may be eligible to file for their green card. This helps people waiting to apply for permanent residence get a general idea of when they can apply and how long they may have to wait. Until today, a person waiting to apply for permanent residence would look at the chart for the current month, find their category, then look at the date published. If their relative or employer filed for them before that date, then they could move forward with their application for permanent residence. However, starting today, Immigration has changed the way they are accepting all applications based on these wait times. There are now two charts that should be considered.
Start by looking at the (A) chart called Application Final Action Dates.You should start by finding your priority date. That is typically the date your relative or employer began the process of filing for you. Looking at the Visa Bulletin, you should find the right set of charts (family-sponsored or employment-based). Find the appropriate priority category (first, second, third, fourth, or fifth) in the chart. Check to make sure you are looking at the right country of birth (only China, India, Mexico and the Philippines have specific dates that are different than the rest of the world). If the date listed is "C" (meaning that the category is current and that it applies to everyone) or your priority date is before that date, then your case can be approved.
Look at the (B) chart called Dates for Filing.Find the appropriate priority category (first, second, third, fourth, or fifth) in the chart. Check to make sure you are looking at the right country of birth (only China, India, Mexico and the Philippines have specific dates that are different than the rest of the world). If the date listed is "C" (meaning that the category is current and that everyone can apply) or your priority date is before that date, then your case can be filed.The important difference is that, now the date when you can file can be drastically different than the date by which you can be approved. In some cases, you may be able to file a year early or more.
Determine if there is a Difference Based on Where You LiveSometimes, this process is different depending on whether you are outside or inside the country. Check the paragraph above the (B) chart to see whether USCIS has determined if this chart MAY or MAY NOT be used for adjustment of status applications (filed in the United States). If it MAY, then you can use the (B) chart to determine your filing. If not, then you must use the (A) chart.
Consider Hiring an AttorneyThe process of determining eligibility to file for residence, and whether the process should be followed through at this time, can be complicated. A skilled attorney that practices immigration law would be best suited to represent you. Immigration can be complicated and even a small mistake can cause a huge problem. An attorney that practices in this area should be familiar with all the standards and rules governing the Visa Bulletin.