The State Department today posted the Visa Bulletin for October 2015 in which the State Department has made a significant change to implement one of the initiatives announced as part of President Obama’s executive action to improve the high-skilled immigration process. The change to the Visa Bulletin should shorten the time many people going through the green card process have to wait to be able to file an adjustment of status application, which is the final step in the green card process. The change does not reduce the amount of time it will take applicants to ultimately obtain a green card, but will allow earlier green card filing for many applicants, particularly those from India and China.
The Visa Bulletin has historically listed only a cut-off date for immigrant visa availability, which USCIS uses to control whether an applicant with a pending or approved immigrant petition can file an adjustment of status application. Because the demand for employment-based green cards far exceeds the supply – particularly for individuals born in India or China – there have typically been multi-year backlogs for these individuals to even be able to file an adjustment of status application. These backlogs have meant that these individuals could not have job changes without complicating the green card process and have had to continually renew their underlying nonimmigrant visa status while awaiting a current priority date allowing the adjustment of status filing.
The October 2015 Visa Bulletin, however, now lists two cut-off dates for each employment-based preference category and country. The first is the traditional cut-off date for actual immigrant visa availability, and controls when USCIS and Consulates can approve an adjustment of status application or immigrant visa. The second is a new cut-off date for eligibility to file an application for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa. The new cut-off dates for filing are in some cases 5 to 10 years ahead of the September cut-offs. For example, the cut-off for Chinese nationals in the EB-3 category was December 2004 in September 2015, and under the October 2015 Visa Bulletin Chinese nationals in the EB-3 category with priority dates on or before October 1, 2013 will be able to proceed with filings. Individuals who are able to proceed with the adjustment of status application filing under the new Visa Bulletin still will not be eligible to receive a green card until an immigrant visa number becomes available to them. However, they will be able to file applications for adjustment of status enabling them to obtain interim work (EAD) and travel authorization (Advance Parole) like any other adjustment of status applicant. Their immediate family members will receive the same benefits.
The revised Visa Bulletin is an important step forward and provides important relief for some individuals stuck in the green card backlog. It does not solve the larger need for high-skilled immigration reform to modernize the supply of employment-based green cards, but it does provide help certain immigrants and their families achieve stability while awaiting a green card. Individuals or companies with questions about the revised Visa Bulletin or the permanent residence process should contact SPS Immigration PLLC.