What is a Priority Date and what does this mean to me in regards to my immigration case?
A Priority Date is the date where a petition for immigration or a labor certification has been initially filed. It is used by United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to mark the date from which the immigrant must wait for an immigrant visa to becomes available.
Immigrant visas are not automatically available for all people. For family based immigrants, visas are only immediately available for Immediate relatives who are:
- parents of an United States citizen who is over the age of 21,
- spouse of a United States citizen and
- under 21 year old single child of a United States citizen.
Immediate relatives are not subject to priority dates.
Those family members that do not meet the above requirements to qualify for an immediate visa may qualify for a preference. Preference based family immigrants can apply for a green card after their priority (filing) dates have been reached. (USCIS has gotten though the backlog of people waiting and a visa is now available). In order to receive this preference, the immigrant has to be either
- a sibling of a United States citizen;
- an over 21 year old single son or daughter of a United States citizen;
- a married son or daughter of a United States citizen;
- a spouse of a legal permanent resident; or
- a single child of a legal permanent resident regardless of age as long as not married.
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, 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. 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.
Every month, the State Department generates a “Visa Bulletin” which lists the “current” priority dates for each category. If the immigrant’s priority (filing) has been met, then the immigrant will have a visa available and this person is now eligible to apply for a green card
Family Priority Dates for current and next month: Click here
Employment Priority Dates for current and next month: Click here