New USCIS System for Determining Visa Availability for AOS Applicants Means Big Changes

USCIS has announced that it is revising the procedure for determining visa availability for foreign nationals wishing to apply for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status (green cards).
Why Change the System? 
The purpose of the new system is to afford DOS greater accuracy in predicting the demand for immigrant visas, and permitting the Department to more accurately calculate cut-off dates published in the Visa Bulletin each month.  Congress has stipulated the annual number of immigrant visas to be issued each year.  The increased accuracy of the new visa availability system will allow USCIS to adhere to these stipulations without having to sometimes dramatically adjust the cut-off dates in the Visa Bulletin to compensate for unexpected surges or declines in visa demand.
This change is a result of the November 2014 executive action announced by President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson.  The White House report issued July 2015, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, details this action.
What do these Changes Mean for my Immigrant Visa Application?
Foreign nationals going through the process of applying for their immigrant visa no longer have to wait as long before they are eligible to adjust status.  And, because they can apply for their green card sooner, they are also able to apply for the benefits of a pending adjustment of status – such as an employment authorization document (EAD), advance parole (AP), and portability based on an approved I-140 Immigrant Worker petition.
How can Visa Numbers be Available Sooner?
Each month USCIS, in coordination with DOS, will monitor visa demand, and subsequently the available visa numbers, and from this information will post the Visa Bulletin.  The Visa Bulletin will now be comprised of two charts for Employment Based immigrant visa petitions, and two charts for Family Based immigrant visa petitions.  The two charts will be as follows:

  • Chart 1 will show the ‘Application Final Action Dates’ – i.e. the dates when visas may finally be issued.
  • Chart 2 will show the earliest dates when applicants may file for adjustment of status.

Immigrant visa applicants can use these charts to determine when they can file Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, or Register Permanent Residence.
At the end of each fiscal year, USCIS will calculate whether additional visas are available.  This will be based on the number of pending adjustment of status applications, the number of qualified visa applicants reported by DOS, and the numbers of application denials, withdrawals, and abandonments for that year.

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