Priority Dates and Visa Availability

New Jersey Green Card Lawyer Marc P. Feldman

What is a Priority date and what does this mean to me in regards to my immigration case? It is the date where a petition for immigration or a labor certification has been initially filed. The priority date is used by United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to record the placement of the designated immigrant’s position in the green card waiting list. This list exists for any green card category which is subject to annual numerical limits. Every month, the United States Department of State compiles a “Visa Bulletin” which has a current list of priority dates. This means that any person with a date that coincides or is before the dates on the list is now eligible and can move forward with his or application for a green card.

Immigration Law separates potential family based immigrants into two categories: Immediate Relatives and Preference Categories. Immediate Relatives are the parents of United States citizen who is over the age of 21, the spouse of a United States citizen and the under 21 year old single child of a United States citizen. Immediate relatives are not subject to priority dates. Preference Categories include some other family members of United States citizen’s: the siblings of the United States citizen and the over 21 year old single son or daughter of a United States citizen or the married son or daughter of a United States citizen. Preference Categories also include the spouse of a legal permanent resident and the single child of a legal permanent resident regardless of age as long as not married. Preference categories are the ones that are controlled by priority dates.

The Priority date is assigned to a petition and that is the date that the petition is received. There is a limit each year for these categories for legal permanent resident status can be granted. The law places people in the order that the petition is received and until someone’s priority date is reached, generally speaking, nothing can be done with the petition. Each month the government determines how many visas in each category have been used and decides how to adjust the priority date that will be current the next month. Some months the priority dates advance, other months the dates retrogress (go backward). The dates can also remain the same or simply become unavailable. Because the priority date is so important, it is imperative to know your priority date and what the date is current and will be current the next month.

Family Priority Dates for current and next month: Click here

Employment Priority Dates for current and next month: Click here

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