The Visa Bulletin and Priority Date System Explained | How It Affects Your Petition

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The Visa Bulletin and Priority Date System Explained | How It Affects Your Petition

I’m Michael Gurfinkel and welcome to U.S. immigration TV. Now part of what I’d like to do is to present to you the latest news, developments and changes in law as well as explain various aspects of immigration because I know it can be very complex and very confusing, such as Visa Bulletin and Priority Dates. Now the Visa Bulletin is basically a monthly chart published by the US State Department that tells a person their place in line for a green card or visa based on the person’s priority date. Now, going back, a priority date for family petitions is based on the date the petition was filed. When it comes to employment based cases it’s a little bit different. It is based on the date the case is originally filed with the Department of Labor, if the person has to go through the labor certification or PERM process. Now there are certain jobs that are filed directly with the USCIS and they do not go through the US Department of Labor such as nurses, physical therapists, people who are subject to the national interest waiver, extraordinary ability, or things like that, but generally for employment it is the date the case is originally filed with the US Department of Labor Alright, so now the petition is filed or the labor certification is filed. The petitions are approved. So now you got your priority date. Another example with the priority date being your place in line it’s kind of like when a person goes to a bakery, alright, there’s a big crowd there and you take a number. Alright now if you are picking you know your number is 164 but they’re only serving number 25, yes you’ve got a ticket. Yes, you’re in line but you now have to wait until they eventually call your number. That’s how the Visa Bulletin and priority dates work. It’s telling you where your place in line is where they’re serving now and how long you may have to wait. In order to find the Visa Bulletin first let’s do it an easy way. You go to Google and you type in the words Visa Bulletin and usually it’s the first hit. It’s the US State Department, it says state-dot-gov. Click that open it up and then you’re going to come to the official Visa Bulletin page You may want to click it as a favorite so you can save it. In this particular case it’s showing the priority dates for May 2020. So let’s click May 2020 and I’ll give you an example of how to read the Visa Bulletin and what it means. So now you click it you open it up and you start scrolling down. Number two on the Visa Bulletin is very interesting to understand. In that paragraph it says the total number of family visas issued per year is two hundred and twenty six thousand and total employment is a hundred and forty thousand for a total of three hundred and sixty six thousand visas per year. Each country is allotted a maximum of seven percent of the total visas, meaning each country can get twenty five thousand six hundred twenty visas per year regardless of the population. so you can have China, India with billions of people, they are going to get same annual allotment as France or Bolivia or whatever. Also then because of the way that the visas are divided among the various countries, the more that a particular country has family members under petition, the longer it would take or the longer the wait is. Also a person’s priority date is based on their

country of birth. So if let’s say somebody from the Philippines becomes an Australian citizen they must still be in the line or category for Philippines. It always goes by your country of birth unless you marry somebody who was born in a different country than you may be able to use your spouse’s priority dates Let’s scan down a bit more on the Visa Bulletin and it starts showing the allotment of visas for the various family categories. So let’s go through what the categories are because people are sometimes confused as to what they are and what they mean The first category for the family Visa Bulletin is F1 – that is unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens who are over 21 years of age The second preference category its F2A which is spouses and minor children of green card holders. F2B is adult, meaning over 21, single children of green card holders. And I’m just gonna mention something here right now is many people think that only US citizens can petition family members. That’s not true. Green card holders or immigrants are able to petition their spouses and their unmarried children whether they are under or over 21. The next category is F3 and that is married children of US citizens and that would also include the, their children who are under 21 years of age, like the grandchildren of the petitioner. And finally F4 – brothers and sisters of US citizens. You’ll also note that spouses minor children and parents of US citizens are not listed on the Visa Bulletin, they’re not part of the charts and the reason for that is that they are called immediate relatives meaning they are immediately eligible for a visa. They don’t have to stand in line they get to go to the front of the line but still it takes a long time for the petition to be filed and get processed for adjustment or immigrant visas at the Embassy. But still, that’s why immediate relatives are not on the Visa Bulletin. Now I just want to point out one thing for example on the chart If you notice F1 it says that there is a total of twenty-three thousand four hundred visas given out for unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens per year and each country as I said gets seven percent which means each country is getting about 1638 visas per year. And the visa allocation for these beneficiaries includes not only themselves but their family members. So let’s say for example a single adult child is being petitioned and they have three children. Well that’s four visas and therefore the more family members who have petitioned from a particular country, the longer the wait. So imagine with this 7% allotment per country picture a big piece of pizza and every country is only allowed a 7% slice regardless of how many family members from that country have filed petitions The more petitions that are filed the longer it will be that those family members have to wait for their priority date to become current, visa to become available or eligibility for a green card. Now let’s move to the next chart on the Visa Bulletin and that will be the Final Action Dates. now what has happened in the Visa Bulletin is ordinarily and

for the longest time the State Department had reported the priority dates and the final action dates are the basic priority dates. It is the dates listed on this particular chart that determine when a person is finally eligible to be issued an immigrant visa or finally able to adjust status in the US. So now let’s look at the chart. On the column are the various family categories that we discussed earlier – F1, F2A, F2B, F3, F4 Across the top lists various countries So let’s do it backwards from right to left you have the Philippines, Mexico, India, mainland China and every other country. So why are there these various columns on the Visa Bulletin for all the countries and then those few other countries have their own separate columns? Well the answer is, God bless those countries. They are the ones who file most of the petitions in the world and therefore because of the number of petitions those particular countries have on file, they all have their own separate column because their waiting times or backlogs or priority dates would be a lot further off than the rest of the world. So here is an example of reading the final action dates for the May 2020 Visa Bulletin Of course it works the same way every single month. So it shows that, let’s pick the Philippines for an example, it shows that the priority date listed there is September ,1 2010 for unmarried children of US citizens, unmarried adult US citizens. Therefore if the priority date on your petition is earlier than September 1, 2010 then your priority date is current and visa is available and you’re eligible for your green card. If your priority day is after September 1, 2010 then your prior to date is not yet current. You may have to wait maybe the following month or hypothetically let’s say your priority date was September 2015 and they’re only working on 2010 you might have to wait five or more years before your priority date is current. So that is what the chart of Final Action Dates show, how close a person is to being eligible for their green card. If your priority is earlier than the dates listed on this chart you’re eligible. If your priority date is after this date you are still going to have to wait depending on how far away it is from the current priority date. Alright, the next chart on the Visa Bulletin is the Dates for Filing chart. Now this has only come about within the past few years and it can become somewhat confusing. There are dates listed here but what this means is that if you are outside the US and you check this chart this is about when the National Visa Center will start sending you the paperwork. If you are inside the US and your priority date is current on this chart it means you can file for adjustment of status and get your work authorization if you are otherwise eligible. This date on the Filing Date chart is typically a few months earlier or sooner than the Final Action Date Let’s just give an example. For example for Philippines the Final Action Date is September 1, 2010. On the dates for filing it’s June 1, 2011 So the Filing Date is about nine months

ahead of the Final Action Date. That means if a person was petitioned in the F1 category or single adult child of a US citizen and their priority date is before June 1, 2011 they could possibly file for adjustment of status and work authorization, get the work authorization issued and then they would be waiting until there priority date appears on the Final Action Chart and that is when they would be in a position to have their green card issued. Also it means that just because your priority date is current or appears on the Filing Date Chart it does not mean you are going to get your green card. Your priority date has to be on the Final Action Date for the green card to be issued. What happens also is every month the USCIS decides which of the two charts it will use in connection with a person’s ability to file for adjustment of status. It’s not always that you can use the Dates for Filing charts Sometimes USCIS says for this particular month you have to use the Final Action Date. Okay well how are you gonna know? If you see on the Visa Bulletin there’s that purple link for the USCIS. You click that and then you are redirected to the USCIS’ website and then if you move down, for family-sponsored petitions or family- based petitions, it notes that for the F2A category which is the spouse and minor children of immigrants, USCIS says you can use the Final Action Date versus the Dates for Filing chart. For all other family-based categories use the dates for filing chart. Now it’s important if you’re going to be filing adjustment of status or you think that your priority date is current, not only must you check the State Department’s Visa Bulletin but you also have to check with USCIS as to which of the two charts they are using for accepting adjustment of status. As you can see sometimes they use one or they use the other chart and if you file based on the wrong chart the case could be rejected. That is an explanation of Visa Bulletin, basically how to read it and understand it and what the various charts show, how and when a person’s priority date is current I will also in a future video explain priority dates with respect to employment- based petitions because for example, if a person is under petitioned by a family member where the waiting time could be 20 years in some of the categories, the person could also be petitioned by an employer which could be a lot faster. I also want to caution people that even though your priority date is current, let’s say on the Dates for Filing chart, it does not necessarily mean that you are automatically eligible to file for adjustment of status. There are other factors to take into account For example if you are in the US, are you out of status? If you are you may not be eligible Is there fraud? Did you commit crimes in the past? Do you have a prior deportation order? Did you get married? Other information needing to be updated That’s why I think it is important that before you file and if you have questions about eligibility, you should consult with an attorney who can evaluate your case, determine eligibility for adjustment of status or see if there’s any other forms of relief available for you such as waivers-fraud waivers, provisional waivers. But I

understand how complex and confusing visa bulletins are and priority dates And that’s why I wanted to present you with this video to explain in plain terms and if you like this type of information, if you find it useful to your case or to someone you know such as another family member or friends or coworkers, please make sure to subscribe by clicking the red box and to like and share. I’m Michael Gurfinkel and thank you for watching U.S. immigration TV