If you are interested in emigrating permanently to the United States, there are certain actions you must take. You must file a petition with all of the appropriate supporting documentation, including proof of identification. However, even after you have submitted your information and received a favorable outcome, you may still have to wait before your petition can be granted. Only so many green cards can be issued in any given year, and in order to keep track, a system of dates has been created. It can be confusing, and sometimes an expert’s assistance is a boon.
Immigrant visas for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are always unlimited. But if you are not a spouse, parent, or minor child of a U.S. citizen, your petition likely falls into what United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) calls a preference category. Preference categories are capped at 226,000 visas or green cards per year (not per category). Because of this cap, individuals who apply for a visa generally will not receive it within the same year.
When visa applications are not granted within the year in which they come in, a line forms. Your priority date refers to when your petition was processed by the relevant center, although it also determines your place in line for approval of your visa or green card application. Your priority date depends both on when you applied and your home country. No more than 7 percent of the total visas available may be granted to any one country, lest the State Department be accused of favoritism.
Cutoff dates, by comparison, are the dates on which all visas for a given time period have been issued. The State Department’s Visa Bulletin comes out every month and lists the priority dates that are now current and that will be issued visas. When a category is opened to grant visa numbers, the Visa Bulletin will usually list those categories as Current, indicating that there is no line for that preference category or country. When a category is not Current, the Visa Bulletin lists a cutoff date. If an applicant’s priority date comes before the cutoff date, he or she will receive a visa during the current year.
These dates can be confusing for many, so it is important to understand the difference between the two. An applicant is given a priority date when he or she applies. The cutoff date appears in the Visa Bulletin. For example, take a potential immigrant from India (a country that sends many potential permanent residents to the United States) applying for an F1 visa (family-related, first preference category). The immigrant’s petition is processed on September 1, 2009, which is now his or her priority date.
As of this writing, the date is September 19, 2014. However, that does not mean that the applicant is entitled to a visa, since the cutoff date for F1 immigrants from India is currently listed as April 22, 2007. The backlog of visa petitions in that category, from that country, is so long, that people who applied in April 2007 are still waiting for visas. Since visa numbers are granted in sequential order, the previous applicants must all be granted theirs before our immigrant may receive one.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney
If you still have questions about your priority date or are in an unusual situation, we can help. Contact the DuPage County immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC today for a free consultation.
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