VISA BULLETIN: The U.S. Department of State issues a visa bulletin every month to notify U.S. Embassies and Consulates and interested parties when immigrant visa applications for both employment and family-based categories may be filed abroad and when adjustment of status (I-485) applications may be filed domestically with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It also sets the date when these applications are eligible to be approved.
Final action date:Until the creation of the Dates for Filing Chart five years ago, the final action date was critical to determine when an applicant could file the last step of the adjustment of status application and obtain an adjudication. Under that system, an applicant’s priority date only had to be on or before that cutoff date. Now, the Dates for Filing Chart may be utilized by USCIS to allow applicants to file their adjustment of status in advance of the final action date.
Priority date: The priority date is the date the I-140 Petition is filed or, where a labor certification application is applicable, the date the labor certification application is filed. The priority date is used to determine whether the cutoff date in the visa bulletin is applicable to an applicant.
Cutoff date: An applicant’s priority date must be on or before the cutoff date listed under either the Final Action Dates Chart or the Dates for Filing Chart to be eligible to file an application or for an application be adjudicated. If the visa bulletin lists a “C” under a given category and country, then than visa category and country have no backlog and any eligible applicant may file abroad or in the United States.
Filing date: This date allows an application to be filed even though the applicant is not eligible to be issued an immigrant visa or granted an adjustment of status because the applicant’s priority date is not before the final action date. Thus, since filing dates are generally later than final action dates, using the filing date generally allows an individual to become an I-485 applicant sooner. Immigrant visa applicants may always use the filing date; however, adjustment of status applicants may only use the filing date in months when it is authorized by USCIS.
Visa retrogression:While the visa bulletin’s cutoff dates usually move forward, visa retrogression occurs when a priority date is available in one month, but becomes unavailable in a subsequent month because the applicable cutoff date moved backward. In this situation, no action is taken on a pending I-485 application until the priority date becomes available again.
Alternate chargeability: While the applicant’s country of birth is generally used to determine his or her eligibility to apply for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status, the country of birth of the principal applicant’s spouse can often be used by the applicant to determine visa eligibility as well.