What Is A Priority Date?
The priority date is the date on which the first set of paperwork for permanent residence is received by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. For family-sponsored cases, this is the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with supporting documents.
When the petition is approved, the immigrant is given a priority date.
Priority dates set the place in line of family preference beneficiaries for immigrant visas.
What Happens If The Family Immigration Visa Petition Is Rejected?
If the filing is rejected, the package is returned to the petitioner without a priority date. The priority date will not be established until the I-130 petition is resubmitted and accepted by USCIS.
However, the priority date is set on the date an approved petition is received, not the date of its approval.
Are These Dates Connected To The Family Visa Preferences System?
The priority date is critically important for immigrants who are classified as a beneficiary under one of the categories of the family preference system.
It establishes their place in the family visa preferences line, which in turn determines when they can immigrate.
Unlike immigrants who qualify as immediate relatives, family preference immigrants are allotted a restricted number of visas per year.
Due to these limits, they must wait a longer period of time before they are eligible for file their permanent resident applications and their interviews are scheduled.
How Do Priority Dates Work?
The priority date operates like a “place in line” ticket given to a person visiting Verizon to buy a new cell phone. When a company representative is available to assist you, your ticket number is called.
In short, this means our green card system is based on a first come, first served basis.
However, immigration authorities will not directly notify you that your waiting period is over.
Instead, at the beginning of each month, the government issues a Visa Bulletin informing the public about the priority date they are working on.
The priority date, in essence, serves as an invisible ticket for an invisible line.
What Happens When A Priority Date Becomes Current?
Government officials use the phrase “Your priority date is current” to indicate the waiting period is over.
At this point, immigrants can finally go to step two in the green card process and file an application for permanent residence.
Some immigrants living in the U.S. are entitled to be interviewed at local offices. This is called adjustment of status.
They do not have to wait for notice from immigration authorities. To move forward, they can immediately submit their applications to USCIS.
Others are living abroad and must attend interviews in their home countries. The wait can take several years.
This is known as consular processing. They will be notified by the National Visa Center that their priority date is current.
Problems sometimes arise on the path to filing for permanent residence and winning a green card. For instance, if an immigrant has moved but not informed the NVC of the address change, the government will not be able to communicate with him.
Generally, immigrants have one year after their priority date becomes current to pursue a green card.
At that point, the government will send a notice of their intent to close the consular case. If no response is received within another 12 months, the NVC will assume the application has been abandoned.
For this reason, all immigrants should check the Visa Bulletin on a monthly basis to ensure their priority date has not become current.
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