The Visa Bulletin- Final Action Dates versus Dates for Filing

Q1. Why does the visa bulletin list two charts?

A: The Visa Bulletin will includes two charts of relevant dates for both the family- and employment-based categories: 1) the “Final Action Dates” chart; and 2) the “Dates for Filing” chart.

Q2. What is a priority date?

A: Every federal fiscal year there are a limited number of immigrant visas available in each immigration category for each nationality. When a particular category is over-subscribed, a backlog develops. In the EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 preference categories (employment-based first, second and third preference, respectively), this backlog has primarily impacted those born in India and China.

Immigrant visas are “charged” to the applicant’s country of birth or country of cross-chargeability (the applicant’s spouse’s country of birth).  Country of citizenship is not relevant.

A “priority date” establishes a person’s place in line to receive an immigrant visa. The priority date is established either by the filing of a labor certification, or by the filing of an immigrant visa petition for categories which do not require the labor certification. Priority dates do not advance or retrogress in a consistent manner- from month to month, the priority dates and nationalities affected can advance, retrogress, or stay the same.

The State Department posts priority dates monthly in the Visa Bulletin: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin.html. That is, each month it establishes a cut-off date in each category for each nationality. “C” means visas are currently and immediately available regardless of one’s priority date; “U” means visas are unavailable regardless of one’s priority date.  For a visa to be available, the applicant’s priority date must be prior to the Final Action Date listed on the applicable section of the visa bulletin.

Q3. What do the “Final Action Dates” on the Visa Bulletin represent?

A: The Final Action Date on the Visa Bulletin is the date when an immigrant visa is available and a green card may finally be issued. A green card case cannot be completed (approved) unless the applicant’s priority date is earlier than the Final Action Date listed on the Visa Bulletin.

Q4. What do the “Dates for Filing” on the Visa Bulletin represent?

A: The Date for Filing on the Visa Bulletin represents the earliest date when an applicant may be able to submit documents for the last stage of the green card process through Adjustment of Status. An individual’s priority date must be earlier than the Date for Filing listed on the Visa Bulletin in order to apply for Adjustment of Status.

Q5. If my priority date is prior to the Date for Filing listed on the Visa Bulletin does that mean I can file for adjustment of status?

A: Maybe. With the publication of each monthly Visa Bulletin, USCIS will determine if they will accept adjustment of status applications based on the Dates for Filing chart. In any given month, the USCIS can decide to utilize the Final Action Dates chart instead. Thus in order to file an adjustment of status application using the Dates for Filing chart, not only does your priority date need to be prior to the date listed on the chart but the USCIS must state that it will accept AOS applications based on the Dates for Filing chart for that particular month.

Q6. If I can file my adjustment of status application sooner because of the Dates for Filing chart, does that mean that my green card will also be issued sooner?

A: No. Although you may be able to file the adjustment of status application sooner based on the Dates for Filing chart, the green card case cannot be completed until your priority date is prior to the Final Action Date listed in the Visa Bulletin.

Q7. Does my I-140 petition have to be approved in order to file for adjustment of status using the Dates for Filing chart?

A: No. Concurrent filing of the I-140 petition and the AOS application is permissible. However, if you are recapturing an old priority date as part of the I-140 petition, then concurrent filing is not recommended. In that situation, we recommend securing the I-140 approval first and then proceeding with AOS.

Q8. I have an I-140 approved through my former employer. Can I use that to file an adjustment of status application using the Dates for Filing chart?

A: No. An adjustment of status application can only be filed if the petitioning employer of the I-140 case intends to employ you on a permanent full-time basis once the green card is approved. If that intent no longer exists, then the AOS cannot be filed using that approved I-140 petition.

Q9. What are the benefits of filing the Adjustment of Status application sooner using the Dates for Filing chart?

A: You and your family members can apply for temporary work authorization cards and advance parole travel documents as part of the adjustment of status application process. In addition, the green card application will begin to vest with you for portability purposes. Portability means that you may continue your current greencard process even if your position, location of employment, and employer change as long as the following conditions are met:  1) the I-140 petition has been approved; 2) the adjustment of status application has been pending for 180 days or more; and 3) the new position is in a same or similar occupation.

Q10. If I am filing my adjustment of status application using the Dates for Filing chart on the Visa Bulletin, should I submit a medical examination report as part of the submission?

A: The medical examination reports are valid for one year after filing. Thus if you are filing an adjustment of status application based on the Dates for Filing chart, we recommend that you hold off on submitting medical exams since the reports will likely expire and you will be required to obtain new examinations at a later date.