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USCIS to Permit Early Filing of Adjustment Applications

Starting in October, 2015, changes to the Department of State Visa Bulletin will list a date when a visa number becomes available and a date on which an applicant can file for adjustment of status.  This is good news for many foreign nationals in the United States who are stuck in a lengthy queue waiting for a visa number to become available.

Previously, the Visa Bulletin listed only a Priority Date, that is, a cut-off date of the first applicant who could not be reached within the numerical limits for a specific month.  Now, Priority Date has been re-named Application Final Action Date (or “Final Action Date”).  Added is a new date, Dates for Filing Applications (or“Filing Date”), that is, the date on which an applicant can file for adjustment of status.  These changes apply to both family based and employment based immigrant visa categories.

A key benefit for adjustment applicants is the eligibility to file for employment authorization and travel permission while their adjustment application pends.  In addition, for many employment based categories, once the adjustment application has been pending for 6 or months, the applicant can port to a different employer in the same or similar job classification.  These are welcome changes to many applicants in heavily backlogged visa categories.

Although an applicant can file for adjustment of status in advance of the Final Action Date, USCIS cannot approve the application until a visa number actually becomes available.  In reading the Visa Bulletin, applicants filing for adjustment must use the Final Action Date unless the Visa Bulletin states that the Filing Date can be used.   For the month of October, 2015, the Visa Bulletin references a USCIS determination that the Filing Date can be used in determining whether the applicant can submit their application or applications to USCIS.  Each month thereafter, USCIS will make a determination regarding adjustment projection numbers and the Visa Bulletin will state whether the applicant can use the Filing Date or must use the Final Action Date.

Please see http://www.travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2016/visa-bulletin-for-october-2015.html for the October, 2015 Visa Bulletin.

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