Gaining a better understanding of the State Department visa bulletin can be very advantageous for immigrants in the United States, especially when it comes to immigrant petitions and employment-based petitions. In short, if you are better able to understand the Visa Bulletin, you will have a better understanding of when you can also apply for an adjustment of status —if that is the end goal.
In this post, we will try to demystify some of the language and terminology that the State Department continuously uses when it comes to visa processing and what this means for applicants.
In its simplest terms, your priority date is the date that the USCIS received your I-130 or I-140 petition. Applicants should think of this date as their place in the green card line. A particular priority date becomes “current” once it reaches the front of the line.
In order to determine where your priority date is, you’ll need to have received an I-797 Receipt from the USCIS regarding your petition. On the top of the receipt notice will be a “Priority Date”. This is essentially your spot in line when thinking about visa availability.
Once you have your priority date, and even if the petition is still pending, you can go to the State Department visa bulletin and get a better sense of how this information will be useful to you.
If you have a priority date for an I-130, which is for family-based immigration, you only need to scroll down to the first chart under the current months visa bulletin. Under the final action date categories, you should see lots of different dates. If your priority date comes before a date mentioned in the Bulletin, in your respective category (F1, F2A, etc), then you know that you have a visa number available. This is good news.
The other important aspect of understanding priority dates is that it will also help immigrants know when they can file for an adjustment of status, which is a key application that many immigrants seek in order to pursue a green card in the U.S. and have more benefits. In order to know when one can file for an AOS, let’s take the above example and simply move one chart down to the “Dates for Filing” chart. If your priority date is again before the date listed here, you will be able to file for an adjustment of status, or at least get this process started with the appropriate documentation.
In addition, if there is any category that is marked with a “C”, this stands for Current and in this case it doesn’t matter when your priority date is. If you check the Visa Bulletin regularly, you will notice that there is more flexibility and availability to file for an adjustment of status (AOS) as an employment-based applicant, versus family-based where there are less “Current” categories.
Here is a quick link to this month’s bulletin: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin/2021/visa-bulletin-for-september-2021.html