As a result of President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration proposed in November 2014, USCIS and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced a new system for determining immigrant visa availability, establishing two separate “approval” and “acceptance” cut-off dates within the Visa Bulletin.   There has been many rumors about this for several months, and at North County Immigration we have been closely monitoring this development as it potentially affects many immigrants, enabling many to obtain work authorization while waiting for their visa number to become current.

Each month, in coordination with DOS, USCIS will monitor visa numbers and post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart. Applicants can use the charts to determine when to file their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.  The “approval” cut-off date would function in the same manner as a “priority date,” which would typically be the date on which the Immigrant Visa Petition is filed with USCIS or the PERM Labor Certification is filed with the Department of Labor (DOL). Until today’s announcement, an individual had to wait for their priority date is deemed “current,”to be able to file their application package with USCIS, alowing them to obtain secondary benefits, including employment authorization and travel documents. Now, beneficiarys can file their application packages at an earlier time, allowing people waiting in the US to be able to get work permits much earlier.

The “acceptance” cut-off date, is the portion of the visa bulletin that now determines when an Adjustment of Status application may be filed. It not only enables the individual and his/her dependent family members to apply for employment and travel benefits, but additionally, the individual may be eligible for I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition job mobility once the green card application has been pending for more than six months.

The employment-based “acceptance” cut-off dates are expected to be several years before the “approval” cut-off dates, which will allow a large number of foreign nationals who are caught in visa processing backlog, to file Adjustment of Status applications immediately once the new system becomes effective.

The revised process aims to better align with procedures DOS uses for foreign nationals who seek to become U.S. permanent residents by applying for immigrant visas at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad.  Hopefully this will enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin. This will help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.  The White House report which details this aspect of the Obama executive actions is called Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, and was recently issued in July 2015.

North County Immigration’s team is schedule for a conference call with USCIS next week to discuss the new system. We will continue to keep you posted on this development and don’t hesitate to call our office with questions about how this may affect you!