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IMMIGRANT VISA AVAILABILITYAVAILABILITY

An individual has to assess whether immigrant visa is current for his category before filing for Adjustment of Status. A visa must be available before an immigrant can take one of the final steps in the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident. The number of immigrant visas (number of people who can receive green card) every year is set by INA. So prospective immigrants have to wait in line to get their Green Cards.  How long one must wait depends on a priority date, preference category, and the country to which the visa will be charged. The availability of immigrant visas is announced in monthly DOS Visa Bulletin. 

There are five groups of aliens who can immigrate to the U.S. :

1. IMMEDIATE RELATIVES 

– spouses of citizens, children (under 21 years of age and unmarried) of citizens, and parents of citizens 21 years of age or older;

Immediate relatives are not subject to numerical quotas.

2. FAMILY SPONSORED IMMIGRANTS

– all other relatives;

         Family-Sponsored Preferences

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:  77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents:  23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens:  65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

There is usually a waiting period for immigrant visa to become current.  A waiting time based on a Priority date.  Priority Date is the date an immigration petition, filed on behalf of beneficiary (an alien), is received by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, the priority dates are not established until USCIS approves the immigration petition. The date establishes immigrant’s place in the line for a family-sponsored application.  The United States Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin  which lists cut-off dates for different immigration categories and countries of birth. Only those intending applicants with priority dates before the cut-off date are permitted to file their Adjustment of Status (AOS) applications or attend immigrant visa interviews at consulates.

Since September 2015, the Visa Bulletin has been giving two sets of priority dates, “the final action dates” and the second set of dates “filing dates.”  So, if the visa bulletin shows a filing date that means that one can file application for adjustment of status if the priority date is prior to that date, but USCIS will not adjudicate the application until the priority date becomes current which is the final action date. Same way National Visa Center (NVC) begins processing cases as and when the date of filing is current but will not schedule the case for consular interview until the priority date is current as shown in the final action date. The advantage of filing early based on the filing date is that the person may apply for work authorization and advance parole early.

But the Visa Bulletin also directs to “visit www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo for information on whether USCIS has determined that this chart can be used. It is a little bit confusing.  Follow the instructions on that site to determine if the Application for Adjustment of Status can be filed in accordance with the filing Dates.  “If USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, we will state on this page that you may use the Dates for Filing Visa Applications chart. Otherwise, we will indicate on this page that you must use the Application Final Action Dates chart to determine when you may file your adjustment of status application.”

3. EMPLOYMENT BASED IMMIGRANTS

       Employment-Based Preferences

First:  Priority Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.

Second:  Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.

Third:  Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, not more than 10,000 of which to “*Other Workers”.

Fourth:  Certain Special Immigrants:  7.1% of the worldwide level.

Fifth:  Employment Creation:  7.1% of the worldwide level, not less than 3,000 of which reserved for investors in a targeted rural or high-unemployment area, and 3,000 set aside for investors in regional centers by Sec. 610 of Pub. L. 102-395.

There is usually a waiting period for immigrant visa to become current.  A waiting time based on a Priority date. The priority date is the date an immigration petition is filed at USCIS, under categories where a labor certification is not required, or when the United States Department of Labor receives a labor certification application, under categories where a labor certification is required.  However, the priority dates are not established until USCIS approves the immigration petition. The date establishes immigrant’s place in the line for a employment-based application.  The United States Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin  which lists cut-off dates for different immigration categories and countries of birth. Only those intending applicants with priority dates before the cut-off date are permitted to file their Adjustment of Status (AOS) applications or attend immigrant visa interviews at consulates.

Since September 2015, the Visa Bulletin has been giving two sets of priority dates, “the final action dates” and the second set of dates for filing of employment-based visa applications .  So, if the visa bulletin shows a filing date that means that one can file application for adjustment of status if the priority date is prior to that date, but USCIS will not adjudicate the application until the priority date becomes current which is the final action date. Same way National Visa Center (NVC) begins processing cases as and when the date of filing is current but will not schedule the case for consular interview until the priority date is current as shown in the final action date. The advantage of filing early based on the filing date is that the person may apply for work authorization and advance parole early.

But the Visa Bulletin also asks to “visit www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo for information on whether USCIS has determined that this chart can be used. It is a little bit confusing.  Follow the instructions on that site to determine if the Application for Adjustment of Status can be filed in accordance with the filing Dates.  “If USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, we will state on this page that you may use the Dates for Filing Visa Applications chart. Otherwise, we will indicate on this page that you must use the Application Final Action Dates chart to determine when you may file your adjustment of status application.”

4. DIVERSITY  IMMIGRANTS

For the majority of the fiscal year, immigrant numbers in the DV category are available to qualified DV-2016 applicants from all the countries; the letter “C” is shown.  When an allocation cut-off number is shown, visas are available only for applicants with DV regional lottery rank numbers below the specified allocation cut-off numbers.           

 5. MISCELLANEOUS

Number of applicants in the Worldwide F2A and F3 preference categories has increased dramatically. When the numbers are approaching those fiscal year annual limits Department of State retrogresses those final application dates for some months.  Any retrogression in the F2A and F3 preference categories are temporary, with those dates returning to the latest reached during previous fiscal year when the October dates are announced.