The Visa Bulletin, published monthly by the U.S. Department of State, summarizes the availability of visa (i.e. “green card”) numbers under the employment and family based quota system for the following month. In September 2015 on the October Visa Bulletin the Department began publishing two versions of the chart covering each of the individual categories. The distinction is critical for applicants in backlogged categories who are in the U.S. and are waiting for their “priority date” to be reached so that they can file an Application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) with USCIS.
The Application Final Action Date chart: this chart specifies the cut-off date for cases which can be approved during the following month. Prior to September 2015, this was the ONLY chart published and effectively dictated which cases could be filed during the following month.
The Date for Filing Visa Application chart: the new chart specifies the cut-off date for Adjustment of Status cases which can be filed with USCIS during the following month. This chart will typically post cutoff dates that are more recent than the dates on the Final Action Date chart and would therefore allow some applicants to file their applications sooner. This is critical because the filing of the Adjustment of Status application has a number of important consequences, such as the ability of the applicant and eligible family members to obtain an Employment Authorization and Advance Parole document allowing travel abroad.
USCIS has now confirmed the following:
Applicants whose priority date has been reached on the Application Final Action Date chart may count on filing their Adjustment of Status application during the following month.
Applicants whose priority date has been reached on the Date for Filing Visa Application chart MAY be able to file their Adjustment of Status application during the following month but only if this is confirmed by USCIS on their website. They expect to make this decision within a week or so of the publication of each Visa Bulletin.
For the months of October and November 2015 USCIS has confirmed that Adjustment of Status applicants may rely on the Date for Filing Visa Application chart.
For more detailed information about the Visa Bulletin, please visit the Department of State at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html.