What's New in the World of Immigration?

09/10/2015 - Is the New Two-Tier Visa Bulletin Making Your Head Spin? Let's Make It Simple...

The October 2015 Visa Bulletin came out yesterday and it includes a pretty significant change. Many people, lawyers included, are grappling to understand why there are now TWO different charts for "green card" cases, when previously there was only one.

Here is the simplest way to explain the use of two charts:

The first chart, called the "Dates for Filing" chart, represents the date that an applicant can APPLY for the green card. The second chart, the "Final Action" chart, represents the date that the green card is available to be ISSUED by Immigration.

This is a HUGE benefit because it will allow many applicants to file sooner. In some cases, people can apply years before the green card is actually available, which will allow applicants to have work and travel permits earlier, protect them from accruing unlawful presence, and will also have a huge impact on protecting children from aging-out of their parents' applications.

Now for the more technical explanation:

The “Application Final Action Dates” tier (which is consistent with prior Visa Bulletins) is the cutoff date which would determine when a pending I-485 or NVC/Consular immigrant case can be approved. The idea is for DOS to be able to track much more closely the use and availability of visa numbers so that the “Application Final Action Date” would reflect a more accurate date as to when a green card can be approved.

The major change is the introduction of “Dates for Filing Visa Applications” cutoff date. This will be used by USCIS to indicate that there are more immigrant visas available for the fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas. When this is the case, the Visa Bulletin would indicate a cutoff date for Filing Visa Applications which is earlier (by few years in many cases) than the “Application Final Action Date” and this would allow those applicants whose priority date earlier than the applicable Filing Visa Applications date to prepare and file their I-485 application.

Even though an approval of the I-485 cannot happen until the Application Final Action Date becomes current, the ability to file I-485 is going to provide an opportunity for family members to obtain work authorization and travel permits, protect children from aging-out of family applications where they are dependents, and preserve the ability of the primary I-485 applicant to port their green card case to a new employer under AC21 after 180 days (as long as their I-140 is already approved).