Less than one week after ILG’s report last week (Major Overhaul for the Visa Bulletin), the Visa Bulletin has indeed received a major overhaul, resulting in two sets of cut-off dates: an “acceptance cut-off” and an “approval cut-off” (officially called “Final Action Dates”). Previously, the same cut-off date determined when one’s I-485 application may be filed with USCIS, as well as when one’s pending I-485 may be approved by USCIS.
The change is a result of executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama in November 2014. The revised process will enhance Department of State’s ability to predict green card demand and determine the cut-off dates for approval. This will minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates while still ensuring that each fiscal year’s allotment of employment-based green cards are issued.
For our clients, this change means they can file their I-485 much sooner than they would have otherwise been able to. This is a tremendous gain because I-485 applicants, including their family members, are eligible for Employment Authorization Documents and Advance Parole. I-485 applicants also become eligible to change employers once their I-485 has been pending for 180 days, provided the position with the new employer is similar to the position his/her PERM and I-140 is based on.
To illustrate the positive difference this change makes, an EB-2 applicant born in India currently cannot file I-485 unless his/her priority date is earlier than the cut-off date of 01/01/2006 (September 2015 Visa Bulletin). In October, all applicants with a priority date prior to 07/01/2011 may file their I-485 and become eligible for the secondary benefits referred to above.
The new Visa Bulletin can be viewed here: October Visa Bulletin
About the Visa Bulletin
Department of State publishes current immigrant visa availability information in a monthly Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date.
- One’s “priority date” is the date the applicant’s employer filed a labor certification (PERM) on the employee’s behalf. If a labor certification was not required (e.g., EB1 and EB5), then the priority date is the date the beneficiary’s immigrant visa petition (e.g., I-140 for EB1 or I-526 for EB5) was filed.
- Availability of an immigrant visa means eligible applicants are able to take the final step in the process of becoming U.S. permanent residents.