The just-issued Visa Bulletin for the first month of the 2016 fiscal year includes a major change which will impact many family- and employment-based immigrants. Originating with the Executive Actions announced in November 2014 and the recent (July 2015) report entitled, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century, this initiative will help thousands affected by the unavailability of immigrant visa numbers.
Under the current system, an eligible family-based or employment-based immigrant cannot proceed with the final stage in the green card process until a visa number becomes available. The availability of visa numbers is governed by statutory limits in each of the preference categories as well as “per-country ceilings” which limit the percentage of available visas which can go to a specific country. Because demand for immigrant visas is high and supply is limited, eligible immigrants face multi-year wait-times with no opportunity to apply for interim immigration benefits which would permit them to legally live and work in the U.S.
The newly-modified procedure changes that and means that persons who have been classified as eligible immigrants but who are waiting for visa numbers to become available WILL have the ability to initiate the final stage of the green card process and apply for interim benefits even before they reach the “front of the line.”
The new system creates two separate categories of cut-off dates, as published in the monthly Visa Bulletin. The first category, an “approval” cut-off date, would determine when an Application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) can be approved. The second category, an “acceptance” cut-off date, would determine when an Application for Adjustment of Status, and the accompanying applications for interim benefits i.e. employment, travel, may be filed.
With “acceptance” cut off dates planned to be several years earlier than the “approval” cut-off dates, this means that eligible immigrants facing long wait times due to visa unavailability will be able to file I-485’s for themselves and their accompanying dependents at an earlier date. And this means opportunities for authorized employment and overseas travel which are not currently available for intending immigrants impacted by burdensome wait-times. For additional information on these changes click here. To see how these changes may affect you, your employees or your family, contact us.