UPDATE: Changes Coming to Visa Bulletin, Will Impact Individuals Awaiting Permanent Residency Applications

Changes Coming to Visa Bulletin

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) have recently announced dramatic changes coming to the visa bulletin system for the month of October 2015. These changes will allow individuals affected by visa backlogs to begin their immigrant visa paperwork or file for adjustment of status before their priority dates become current and an immigrant visa is immediately available.

The visa bulletin is published each month by the Department of State and provides the most current immigrant visa availability information indicating when statutorily-limited immigrant visas are available to intending immigrants based on their individual “priority date.” A priority date is generally the date that an applicant’s relative or employer filed an immigrant visa petition on the applicant’s behalf with USCIS, or the date by which a labor certification application was filed with the U.S. Department of Labor on an applicant’s behalf.  This priority date is displayed on the Form I-797 Notice of Action regarding an applicant’s Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) or Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140).

Historically, the visa bulletin has only published one chart per month for each classification of immigrant visa (Employment or Family-Based). Starting with the October Visa Bulletin, DOS will provide two distinct charts listing dates for each Family-Based and Employment-Based preference category and country of chargeability. The first chart, titled “Final Action Dates,” displays the dates by which DOS or USCIS must make a decision on one’s application for permanent residence. The second chart, titled “Dates for Filing Applications,” displays the dates by which an individual can actually submit his or her application for permanent residence.  Please click here to access the October 2015 Visa Bulletin.

These changes to the visa bulletin implement President Obama’s executive actions published last November. The revised process is meant to enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict total visa demand, to help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and to minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.

The Visa Bulletin is a complex document that many find challenging to understand. If you believe your immigration circumstances may be impacted by these new changes, or would like to learn how to better navigate the visa bulletin system, please call or email our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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