Change to Visa Bulletin advances adjustment filing eligibility

A TREMENDOUSLY beneficial change to the Visa Bulletin was announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and Department of State (DOS) on Sept. 9, 2015.  The change assists those needing a work permit and advance parole travel document by allowing individuals to file these applications earlier than before.

The changes to the Visa Bulletin are in accordance with the Executive Action announced by Pres. Obama in November 2014.  It is intended to modernize and streamline the U.S.’ legal immigration system, especially in a time where Congress has failed to address the issue.

The Visa Bulletin indicates when immigrant visas are available to individuals on the various family and employment-based categories.  For those categories with a waiting list, the Visa Bulletin indicates a cut-off “priority date.”  Only those with a priority date earlier than that shown on the Visa Bulletin may proceed with the final processing of their green cards.  An individual’s priority date is generally the date that the relative petition or labor certification application is filed.  The Visa Bulletin is published every month and lists the cut-off priority dates for the upcoming month.  For example, the Visa Bulletin released on Sep. 9, 2015, is applicable starting on Oct. 1, 2015.

Accordingly, starting on Oct. 1, 2015, there are now 2 different charts stating priority dates for each of the family and employment-based categories.  The one chart, “Dates for Filing,” determines when an individual who is eligible for an immigrant visa, or green card, may proceed further with the process.  For individuals who are outside the U.S. and whose priority date becomes current under “Dates for Filing,” the DOS is to proceed with notifying the individual of the steps necessary to further process their immigrant visa.  For those already inside the U.S., a current priority date under “Dates for Filing” signals that the individual may proceed with filing the adjustment of status application, along with the related work permit and advance parole travel document applications.

For those seeking adjustment of status, it is important to note that the changes to the Visa Bulletin do not affect an individual’s eligibility for adjustment of status.  It only changes when an application may be submitted.  Individuals must continue to be eligible for adjustment of status either because they are still in lawful status; have been out of status for less than 6 months and are applying on an employment-based petition; or are grandfathered under former INA §245(i).

The second chart, “Application Final Action Dates,” determines when the individual’s green card may actually be granted.  For those outside the U.S., the Embassy can only issue the immigrant visa so that they may enter the U.S. once their priority date on this chart becomes current.  For those inside the U.S., the USCIS may only finalize their adjustment of status application once their priority date becomes current on this chart.

The creation of the 2 charts, “Dates for Filing” and “Application Final Action Dates,” is very beneficial to those in the U.S. seeking adjustment of status as it advances their ability to get the extremely valuable work permit and advance parole travel document.  Moreover, it advances the ability for their dependent spouse and children to obtain work permits and advance parole.  The work permit and advance parole documents may continually be renewed until the adjustment of status applications can be finalized.

As an example of the benefits under the change, take the family F1 category for the Philippines.  Starting on Oct. 1, 2015, individuals with a priority date earlier than Sept. 5, 2005, may proceed with filing their adjustment of status, work permit and advance parole applications.  Had the Visa Bulletin not changed, it may have been another 4 years since the cut-off priority date would have only been June 1, 2001.

Another example is the employment 3rd and Other Worker categories for the Philippines.  Starting on Oct. 1, 2015, individuals with a priority date earlier than Jan. 1, 2015, may proceed with filing the adjustment, work permit, and advance parole applications.  The change advanced their eligibility potentially 8 years since the cut-off priority date would otherwise have been Jan. 1, 2007.

The advancement to those eligible for adjustment of status to obtain work authorizations and advance parole recognizes the benefits of providing hard working individuals with the tools necessary to fully contribute to our society.  This change in the Visa Bulletin implements yet another one of Pres. Obama’s Executive Actions, many of which are indeed helping to modernize and streamline the U.S. immigration system.

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