DOS Announces Significant Changes to October Visa Bulletin

After much anticipation, USCIS, in coordination with DOS, has revised the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for adjustment of status. The revised process gives significant relief to several employees in Employment Based (EB) categories who have waited for sometimes as long as 15-20 years for their priority dates to become current.

The process in an EB green card essentially involves three steps - 1) PERM application with the U.S. Department of Labor by the petitioning U.S. employer for a non-U.S. citizen or permanent resident (beneficiary employee), 2) Filing of I-140 with USCIS by the employer, and 3) Filing of I-485 with USCIS by the employee beneficiary once the "priority date" of that beneficiary's application becomes "current". Since there are a limited number of green cards available under the EB category for each country, only a handful of beneficiaries from some countries (particularly India, China, Mexico, and Philippines) can proceed with Step 3 to get their green cards. For those who do not have a current priority date must wait for several years, sometimes even 15-20 years, before they can even apply for green cards and thus get incidental benefits based on the application. This wait time is debilitating for both, the employees and the U.S. economy.

The current system which determines this wait time, that is, the eligibility for a beneficiary to apply for a green card, is based on a monthly visa bulletin published by the DOS. This bulletin contains a series of "cut-off" dates that vary by country, and those dates determine when an applicant may file for a "green card". Several immigration advocacy groups, including one of nation's leading group called Immigration Voice (IV) has advocated for a change to the visa bulletin for several years.

These efforts by IV and other advocay groups have finally lead to positive results. The new visa bulletin has two separate cut-off dates. One of these dates (the "approval" cut-off date) regulates when the final green card may be approved. This date is similar to the dates we have seen until now. However, there is a new category of "acceptance" cut-off date which now sets the date when an application may be "filed". The acceptance cut-off date now allows a foreign national to at least "apply" for a green card application, and consequently obtain several benefits of the application before receiving a green card approval. These benefits include Employment Authorization documents, Advance Parole, the ability to avoid visa extensions and stamping, and the ability to qualify for AC-21 visa portability.

Attorney Abhinav Goel from our Washington DC office volunteers with Immigration Voice (IV), and is proud that IV's efforts have now given significant relief to its members. Brenman Law Firm continues to believe that per-country limits on EB green cards are arbitrary and cause unjustiable delays in green card processing for skilled future U.S. residents. It supports IV's efforts to advocate for a removal of these limits which created the long delays in the first place.

Please feel free to email Attorney Goel at abhinav@visas-us.com or call our Washington DC office at 516-847-2879 for any questions related to this news.

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