Federal Government changes Visa Bulletin process

After reviewing its procedures, the U.S. government announced changes to the Visa Bulletin that will benefit immigrants awaiting family-based or employment-based residency visas.

In order to reduce delays in the processing of their petitions, these immigrants will be able to begin the adjustment of status application process before their priority date becomes effective and a visa becomes available.

As part of the modernization of the system, the Visa Bulletin will be different.

Starting with the October 2015 Visa BulletinFor each visa preference category, two tables will be published with the following information:

- Final Action Dates: dates on which immigrant visas can finally be issued.
- Dates for Filing: indicates the earliest an applicant can file an application for an immigrant visa.

Each month, in coordination with the U.S. Department of State (DOS), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will review the number of visas and publish the availability in the corresponding tables.

Applicants will be able to check the lists to determine when they can begin the process of applying for an immigrant visa through consular channels or adjustment of status.

Until September, the Visa Bulletin only included a table indicating cut-off dates, similar to the new Application Final Action Dates table.

The "Final Application Action" and "Application Submission" tables for the family category published in the October 2015 Visa Bulletin are as follows:

Visa Bulletin Board

What the changes mean

Individuals with pending family or employment-based petitions may begin immigration proceedings to apply for an immigrant visa before their visa becomes available.

These changes will primarily benefit individuals who will be adjusting status within the United States, because it anticipates when they can begin submitting documentation for the final phase of the resident visa process.

Previously, they had to wait for the deadline date to appear in the Visa Bulletin indicating when their visa would be ready to be issued before they could file that documentation. But now, they can file their application for an immigrant visa if their priority date is prior to the dates listed in the "Filing of Applications" table.

It has been a long time since people who process their immigrant visas through consular channels have had this advantage. Consulates and embassies generally estimate when a visa will be available, and begin processing 6 to 12 months prior to that date to allow the applicant time to submit all necessary documentation so that they are ready when a visa becomes available.

This will remain the same. The only difference is that now it is published in a table what the consulates knew internally. This lets the public know when they will begin processing their cases.

Even though "Filing Dates" are published in the Visa Bulletin, people who are processing through consular channels have to wait for DOS to send them the notification requesting the documents. They cannot start the process before that notification.

Consular Processing

Under the consular process, the DOS will let the immigrant know when he or she can submit the documentation to the National Visa Center. The immigrant's priority date must be before the maximum date listed in the "Filing Applications" table.

The immigrant will pay the corresponding fees and send the necessary documentation to apply for the immigrant visa.

The National Visa Center will review all documentation and if correct, will classify the case ready for processing at a consulate or embassy abroad and schedule the consular interview.

The immigrant will have to travel abroad for his or her consular interview and medical examination, as required by immigration law.

If your application is approved, you will be issued an immigrant visa that will allow you to legally return to the United States. When the immigrant returns to the U.S., he/she is inspected by a customs officer, and if he/she is allowed to legally enter the country, he/she becomes a permanent resident at that time.

Status Adjustment

Under the new procedures, an immigrant who has a priority date before the deadline listed in the "Filing of Applications" table will be able to file an adjustment of status application to claim an immigrant visa. At the same time, he or she may file an application for a work permit and an advance entry permit before an immigrant visa is available for his or her case.

The dates in the "Final Application Action" and "Application Submission" tables will change from month to month and will be updated in the Visa Bulletin.

There is no guarantee that applicants for adjustment of status will be able to advance their cases. It all depends on the number of applications and visas available for each country.

The implementation of the new process will allow DOS to more accurately predict the overall demand for immigrant visas and set deadlines for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin, making the entire process more efficient.