Excepting spouses, minor children, or parents of U.S. citizens, most foreigners who seek to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States are subject to quotas governing the availability of immigrant visa numbers.
The Department of State releases each month a Visa Bulletin reflecting how many green cards are available and listing the dates before which a green card process must have been initiated to move forward with the last step of the process.
Each of the categories, family-based or employment-based, is assigned one of these “priority dates.” These priority dates can move forward or advance or backward- retrogressing every month, depending on the level of demand in a particular category.
When the visa numbers are available to a specific category immediately, that category will be listed as “current” in the Visa Bulletin.
When your employer or a family member files an immigrant visa petition on your behalf, you will be placed on a waiting list to get an immigrant visa.
Your priority date determines where you stand on this waiting list.
Two types of the priority date will assess your position on the waiting list depending on who submitter your immigration petition:
1. The date when a family member submitted an immigration petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services;
2. The date when your employer applied “PERM”- labor certification with the U.S. Department of Labor.
If you are inside of the United States when your priority date becomes current, you may be able to seek an adjustment of status to a lawful permanent resident. To seek it, an immigrant visa must be available to you both when filing the Form I-485 and at the time of adjudication.
Nevertheless, what happens to your application when immigrant visa numbers regress after you properly file Form I-485?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has released guidance to local field offices on how to adjudicate the case of the employment-based and family-based adjustment of status where regression of immigrant visa numbers took place while the application was being considered.
So, with this guide, USCIS instructed local field offices and officers who handle such cases to undertake seven steps as follows:
1. To conduct the adjustment of the status interview;
2. To confirm completion of security and background checks;
3. To make sure all the eligibility and documentary requirements are met;
4. To resolve any issues related to the application either during the adjustment of the status interview or by the issuance of a Request for Evidence (RFE);
5. To deny the adjustment of status application, if warranted under applicable law;
6. To determine whether a visa number is available where the applicant appears eligible for adjustment of status to a lawful permanent resident;
7. To return the file to the National Benefits Center if the immigrant visa is family-based or the Texas Service Center if the visa is employment-based if no visa number is available.
When immigrant visa availability regresses after you adequately filed Form I-485, you can remain in the United States if USCIS believes you are eligible for status adjustment, which will allow you to stay until a visa number becomes available to you.
In recent years, USCIS has slowed down the processing of green card (I-485) applications, causing a substantial backlog of employment-based cases. The number of people waiting for EB-3 visas did not significantly increase; instead, the number of visas issued recently increased and resulted in a shortfall for certain countries.
If you haven’t heard from USCIS within 30 days of your visa availability or you would like to get information about your case’s status, you should contact the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283.