Priority date is a United States immigration concept. A common path to the green card in the United States is to obtain it through employment, a very complex process that can take many years to complete. When a foreign worker, usually on a temporary work visa such as an H-1B with a U.S. employer, begins the green card process, the first step is to complete labor certification to prove that a qualified American worker could not be found to fill the position the foreign worker is taking. The labor certification process has undergone a number of changes in recent years, from the laborious supervised recruitment process, to the Reduction-in-Recruitment (RIR) process, and now to the much faster online PERM system. In all cases, the date the labor certification is filed (directly with the Department of Labor for PERM applications, previously with a State Workforce Agency for RIR applications) is assigned as the individual’s Priority Date. As soon as the labor certification is approved, the immigrant’s employer may file an I-140 Immigrant Visa petition with the USCIS to establish the immigrant’s eligibility to file the green card application itself, the I-485 Adjustment of Status to Permanent Residency (AOS).
The United States State Department publishes a monthly visa bulletin which lists priority date cutoffs for different immigration categories and birth countries. Only those intending immigrants with priority dates before the cutoff date are permitted to file their AOS applications and obtain their green card. The cutoff dates generally move forward over time as old cases are disposed of. However, in certain cases, such as if a large number of old cases work their way through the system at about the same time, the cutoff dates can actually retrogress (move backward). If an individual already has a pending AOS application on file when a retrogression occurrs that places the cutoff earlier than the applicant’s priority date, USCIS sets the application aside and will not adjudicate it until the priority date is again current. In June 2007, the priority date cutoffs for employment-based second and third preference (EB-2 and EB-3) applicants, the bulk of employment-based green card applicants, advanced dramatically for all countries of birth after months of stagnation. On the low end, the cutoff advanced eight months for immigrants from mainland China with jobs requiring Master’s degrees. EB-3 India (impacting a huge number of workers, those with jobs requiring Bachelor’s degrees) moved forward 25 months, the most of any category.
For individuals starting the employment-based green card process now, country of birth and job requirements are paramount in determining how long the overall process will take. Individuals from countries other than China or India with jobs requiring an advaned degree can complete the entire process, from labor certification to receiving the green card, in as little as four months (in a best case scenario), because there is no backlog of visa availability, i.e., all priority dates are current. Workers from China or India with jobs requiring only a Bachelor’s degree can expect to wait years after filing the labor certification and immigration visa petition to become eligible to file the final application for the green card itself.
Call our office today for a Phone Consultation at 877-872-9666 and find out if you are eligible for the PERM process