Another New Year Reminder: Check Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates

MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers were provided with a three-part series of articles reminding them to check expiration dates related to their immigration cases. Readers should also regularly check another important date-related document – the monthly U.S. Department of State (DOS) visa bulletin. While many individuals routinely check the visa bulletin, awaiting its issuance each month, there are other foreign nationals who are not sufficiently aware of the importance of this publication.

Regularly Check Priority Date Movement to File I-485

Those who are interested in obtaining permanent resident status, but are not familiar with the visa bulletin, should learn about this important publication. Learn about priority dates by reading our informative article, Immigration Basics: The Priority Date and Its Importance (03.Sep.2010). The visa bulletin is available via a link to the DOS from MurthyDotCom. Monthly articles on priority date movement are included in our AOS/CP section.

Many foreign nationals watch for the issuance of the visa bulletin each month because it determines which beneficiaries of immigrant petitions (such as the I-140 Employer Petition or I-130 Family Petition), can move forward with filing for adjustment of status (I-485). It also determines which of those who have filed I-485s are eligible for approval during the month covered by the visa bulletin. An application for adjustment of status can be filed only if the priority date is current, meaning that it predates any cutoff date in the visa bulletin for the particular category. Thus, persons waiting to file the I-485 should know as soon as their date becomes current.

Be Vigilant to Avoid Missing Valuable Opportunities to File the I-485

As regular readers of MurthyDotCom and the MurthyBulletin know, the visa bulletin became “current” in all employment-based (EB) categories (except the category for other workers) in July of 2007. This was unexpected, but anyone who missed the opportunity to file for adjustment of status based upon the July 2007 Visa Bulletin knows the importance of checking the visa bulletin on a regular basis.

As this event illustrated, these dates are sometimes subject to significant, unanticipated movement that can briefly open opportunities for the filing and/or approval of adjustment-of-status filings during narrow windows of time. It is necessary to know about these shifts, in order to potentially take advantage of any temporary opportunities.

Recent Example: Family-Based 2A Cases

A more current example of unexpectedly substantial forward movement of cutoff dates is the Family-Based, Second Preference A (FB2A) category for spouses and minor children of permanent residents. As described in our article, Family-Based Priority Date Movement in September 2010 (27.Aug.2010), the movement was dramatic. The expected waiting times for visa number availability moved from five years or more to only a few months. Many individuals who follow the visa bulletin – either directly or through our regular articles and analyses – were ready to take advantage of this change in the FB cutoff dates. Permanent residents who were waiting to become U.S. citizens in order to sponsor their spouses were filing in the FB2A category immediately, rather than waiting. However, as indicated in our article, January 2011 Visa Bulletin (17.Dec.2010), increased demand for visa numbers in this category caused retrogression of more than 2 1/2 years for all countries of chargeability in FB2A.

There are many permanent residents with spouses who have not yet obtained permanent resident status. Some of these individuals were married prior to their employment-based green card approvals, but had spouses who were unable to file the I-485 for various reasons. (Commonly, these spouses were outside of the United States during the 2007 summer.) Many of these individuals are simply waiting, potentially for years, for their EB priority dates to become current again, to allow the filing of their I-485s or issuance of immigrant visas. These individuals had a potential opportunity to obtain immigration benefits more quickly by using the FB category, as spouses of permanent residents. Of course, as indicated above, this type of opportunity does not always last. As expected, the FB2A category has retrogressed. Thus illustrating the importance of initiating multiple approaches to the same goal, and moving quickly when opportunities become available. These steps can only be taken if one learns of options promptly, by keeping up to date, and then acting without delay.

Conclusion: Stay Informed

Laws, procedures, and situations change regularly. Tracking these changes, including the changes in the visa bulletin, helps one to avoid missing deadlines and opportunities. Many who were aware of the unexpected opportunity to file for adjustment of status based on the July 2007 visa bulletin are now permanent residents. Others may still have a long wait to become permanent residents, but can enjoy the benefits of their pending I-485 applications: unrestricted employment authorization, advance parole, and potential AC21 employment portability for their cases.

When seeking strictly limited U.S. immigration benefits, timing can be everything. There are some who were able to take advantage of the movement in FB cutoff dates. There are others who were completely unaware of the opportunity. Our recommendation is to make a New Year’s resolution to keep yourself informed of key immigration changes. The Murthy Law Firm makes this otherwise overwhelming task easier through our regular updates on MurthyDotCom or when you subscribe to our free weekly eNewsletter, the MurthyBulletin.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.