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  • Writer's pictureJohn Barrera

What are priority dates and how does the Visa Bulletin affect obtaining a green card?

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

Most Green Card cases are subject to green card limitations which are determined by the limited number of green cards also referred to as immigrant visa numbers that are available annually. The only category that is not subject to these green card limitations are petitions filed by immediate relatives that consist of United States Citizen petitioning spouses, sons or daughters 21 years or older and parents petitioning for children under 21 years of age. All other green card categories whether based on family or employment are subject to these limitations.

Family-Based preference categories subject to immigrant visa availability include:

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents.

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents;

B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens.

Employment-Based preference categories subject to immigrant visa availability include:

First: Priority Workers.

Second: Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability.

Third: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers.

Fourth: Certain Special Immigrants.

Fifth: Employment Creation.

Whether a green card beneficiary is able to complete the process by filing the second application will be determined by the cut-off date published in the Visa Bulletin by the Department of State.

The Final Action Date:

The Visa Bulletin is published every month which displays a chart containing these different family-based and employment-based categories with five different regions in the world and either a classification of “C” meaning that there are immigrant visas available with no backlogs for a category under one of the specific regions or the chart displays a cut-off date that signifies that green card petitions filed on or before that date are the petitions ready to process towards the next stage of the green card until approval of the immigrant visa.

If the date of filing of the green card petition also known as the green card priority date is current which means the date of filing is the same as the cut-off date posted in the chart or a date filed earlier than the posted cut-off date, the green card petition can also move forward with the filing of the immigrant visa application where the application will be allowed to complete processing until approval.

Dates for Filing Chart:

This is a second set of charts under both the family-based and employment-based sections of the bulletin where these charts work just like the Final Action Date chart except that the cut-off dates in these charts signify when the green card beneficiary can proceed to filing the immigrant visa application on a date earlier than the Final Action Date. However, these immigrant visa applications will only be allowed to start processing of the application, but will not allow for a final approval until the green card priority date aligns with the Final Action Date chart sometime in the future. The purpose of these charts is to allow early filing of the immigrant visa application to make up application processing times to have the case ready for final approval by the time the priority date aligns with the Final Action Date.

You can view the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin by following the link here.

Adjustment of Status Cases filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service or USCIS:

These are the cases where a green card beneficiary will apply for the green card in the United States through USCIS rather than the consulate from the beneficiary’s country of origin. These cases are also subject to the immigrant visa number limitations and priority date where the cases completely follow the Final Action Date chart listed in the bulletin. However, these cases do not always follow the Dates for Filing Chart for determining whether the final application known as the form I-485 can be filed before the Final Action Date.

USCIS publishes its own Dates for Filing chart that sometimes follows the Visa Bulletin Chart but not always. These cases probably benefit most from the Dates for Filing chart since these applicants can then proceed to also file for travel authorization for travel outside the United States and employment authorization within the United States at the same time when filing the form, I-485. Unfortunately, as stated, USCIS Dates for Filing charts does not always align with the Visa Bulletin version subjecting some beneficiaries to wait for the Final Action Date to be able to file the I-485.


Usually the priority date on the Visa Bulletin move forward in time, but not always. Demand for visa numbers by green card beneficiaries with a variety of priority dates can fluctuate from one month to another, with an inevitable impact on priority dates. Such fluctuations can cause cut-off date movement to slow, stop, or even retrogress. Visa retrogression occurs when more people apply for a visa in a particular category or country than there are visas available for that month.

Barrera Legal Group can help guide your through any green card process by helping you determine whether you may qualify for a green card through the adjustment of status process and confirm whether your priority date is current for filing.


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