What’s the Significance of an I-140 Priority Date for Immigrant Visa?

I-140 Priority Date

I-140 priority date is also known as the Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. It is for green card seekers who hold employment-based preference visas—EB 1, EB 2, and EB 3.

The I-140 is a way for any foreign national employee to obtain their visa number. In the case of EB 2 applicants, it helps the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services determine if they have met the labor certification requirements.Green Card Legal Expert

It also guarantees that the employer can pay the applicant’s wages.

If you’re one of the many skilled workers who’ve filed for adjustment of status, you’d want to know your I-140 priority date. It shows your place in the visa line, among many other things.

It is crucial to know this since the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has annual limits for foreign nationals seeking permanent residence.

What is a Priority Date?

The priority date is something you’ll find on form I-797 Notice of Action. It also indicates the validity of your employment authorization document.

If you belong to a preference category that requires a Department of Labor certification, your priority date is the date the DOL has accepted your application for processing.

If you do not require a labor certification application, your priority date is the date when the USCIS has accepted your Form I-140 processing.

The waiting time when you adjust status largely depends on the following:

  • The demand and supply for immigrant visas
  • Per country visa limitations, as each nation, shouldn’t account for more than 7% of any green card category
  • Numerical limits for visa applications (140,000 for employment preference categories)
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Your Priority Date and the Visa Bulletin

As mentioned, the government may set an annual limit when the demand for immigrant visas exceeds the supply.

Visa availability usually depends on these three things:

  • Qualified applications reported by the State Department
  • Pending adjustment of status cases documented by the USCIS
  • Drop off rates (denials, withdrawals, or abandonment)

So how do you know what priority dates the National Visa Center is processing right now? 

You need to refer to the visa bulletin. This shows the visa queue for employment-based preference cases and family-sponsored preference cases.

Interpreting Your Priority Date

If your priority date is much earlier than the date shown on the monthly visa bulletin, an immigrant visa should already be available to you.

For example, the priority date for a Mexico-born applicant for a fourth-preference visa right now is April 1, 2020. If the applicant’s priority date is much earlier than that, then a visa should be available for them.

If the bulletin for your visa category shows ‘C,’ it means that the priority date is current. Annual visa limits are well within recent consular processing times, so there isn’t a long wait for employment-based immigrant visas.

If the dates for filing show ‘U,’ the visas allocated for that category are temporarily unavailable.

Visa Retrogression

There are times when the visa bulletin cut-off date moves back. This is known as visa retrogression. It happens when green card applicants outnumber the visas available.

Should this happen to you, don’t worry. More immigrant visas are usually issued on October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. This often restores the priority dates back to before the retrogression.

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High Number of Visas Available for the Employment Preference Category

In the previous years, green card waiting times usually took several years. But thanks to the exceptionally high number of employment visas available, you may not have to suffer the same fate.

According to a USCIS report, visas available for October 2021 to September 2022 are twice the usual number. This is due to the 140,000 unused family-sponsored visas last year.

Since this particular category of visas may not be given to third-preference visa applicants, those waiting for such are encouraged to transfer their applications to the first- and second-preference categories.

A law firm can help you make this transfer as long as you meet these requirements:

  • Eligibility for first or second-preference visas
  • Current priority date in the first/second-preference category
  • Maintained adjustment of status
  • Pending form I-485

Concurrent Filing for Adjustment of Status

With an immigration attorney, you may file your Form I-485 (adjustment of status application) with your Form I-140.

Immigrant visa applicants may do so, granted you meet the following requirements:

  • Your priority date is earlier than what the visa bulletin shows on its application final action dates
  • Your priority date is earlier than the dates for filing applications
  • The bulletin indicates ‘C’ (current) instead of a specific date. Green Card Legal Expert

Wrapping Up

A priority date helps you know where you are in the queue for visa allocations. 

If your priority date is earlier than shown in the visa bulletin—or if the processing is current—there should be a visa available for you.

Should you have any concerns regarding your green card application, make sure to contact an immigration lawyer right away.

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