• State Department Expected to Announce Visa Bulletin Reforms for Employment-Based Permanent Residence
  • September 7, 2015
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • In the coming days, the State Department is expected to announce significant employment-based reforms to the Visa Bulletin, the agency’s forecast of green card availability for the coming month. A centerpiece of President Obama’s executive action on immigration, the reforms are expected make it possible for eligible employer-sponsored foreign nationals to file an application for adjustment of status to permanent residence before an immigrant visa becomes available to them. Applicants and eligible dependents will be able to obtain interim employment and travel benefits during the often lengthy wait for a green card, which should help to alleviate the hardships that employment-based immigrant visa backlogs can cause.

    Under current practice, a foreign national can file an application to adjust status (or an application for an immigrant visa abroad) only when his or her priority date is “current”in the Visa Bulletin. A foreign national’s priority date -i.e., the date on which a labor certification (if required) or a Form I-140 immigrant worker petition was filed on his or her behalf -is current if it falls before the cut-off date listed in the Visa Bulletin.

    The reformed Bulletin is expected to list two critical cut-off dates for each backlogged employment-based preference category and country: (1) a cut-off date for actual immigrant visa availability, as is currently reported in the Bulletin; and (2) a new cut-off date for eligibility to file an application for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa. The new cut-off dates will not be known with certainty until the State Department issues its new Bulletin, but they could be up to one year later than the immigrant visa availability date for each preference category and country, and possibly more than one year later for some countries. Those who qualify under this second cut-off will not be able to receive a green card until an immigrant visa number becomes available to them, but they and their eligible dependents will be able to file their applications for adjustment of status, as well as applications for interim work and travel authorization, as stated above.

    What a Reformed Visa Bulletin Could Mean for Foreign Nationals and Employers

    If reformed as anticipated, the new Visa Bulletin will bring welcome news to many employer-sponsored foreign nationals, particular those from China and India, who are most significantly affected by green card backlogs. Once the new Bulletin is released, we expect the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to answer the many questions presented by this new filing opportunity, including how long it will remain available and how to submit applications.