Immigrant Visa Processing to Change Significantly

Getting a Green Card can be a long and frustrating process with complex and confusing requirements and long waits. Green Cards are distributed through a quota system in which some categories are backlogged for years.

The last step in the process is filing an Adjustment of Status petition (Form I-485), which will result in issuance of the coveted Green Card if and when approved.

Each month, the U.S. Department of State (USDOS) publishes a Visa Bulletin at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin.html which displays the cut-off dates for each eligibility category. Until now, the Adjustment of Status could be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only when the applicant finally had a priority date which was earlier than the published cut-off date.

The cut-off dates move in both directions, however, so the wait for Adjustment of Status processing can be agonizing. A modernization effort originating in President Obama’s immigration accountability executive actions announced in November 2014 has changed the game significantly.

In an unprecedented effort to cooperate in managing the flow of immigrant visas, USCIS and USDOS will each publish a chart in the current and future Visa Bulletins. The USDOS chart will continue to control when the immigrant visa can be assigned to the Adjustment so the Green Card can be issued, and the USCIS chart will control when the Adjustment of Status can be filed to start the processing. The two agencies anticipate that this will generate an inventory of pre-adjudicated Adjustments so that when USDOS is ready to assign an immigrant visa, the Adjustment will already be processed to approval and the Green Card can be issued forthwith.

Temporary foreign workers whose Adjustments have been delayed because of the backlogs are already contacting their employers and their attorneys to get their Adjustments filed as soon as possible under the new system. This will have a double benefit for them: Firstly, their Green Cards should process faster once the Adjustment has been pre-approved. In addition, they will be able to file for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and an Advance Parole at the same time the Adjustment is filed. This will permit them to “port” (transfer to another employer) their temporary status and travel abroad more readily during the rest of their wait for issuance of the Green Card.

If this sounds confusing, be sure to join MSEC’s immigration attorneys at two upcoming briefing sessions: Immigration Law & Compliance Update on September 25, 2015 and Green Cards for Employers, scheduled for October 29, 2015.