What Happens When a Priority Date is Current: What is the NVC Doing for You

One of the most common questions that we receive from applicants who are applying for a green card is what happens when your priority date becomes current?

In this video we will discuss what it means for a priority date to become current, and the general steps that you need to take once this happens.

What is a priority date?

First let’s clarify what a “priority date” is. A priority date is a legal term used in immigration law which generally refers to the date when your immigrant petition was filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

A “priority date” is important because it determines your place in line in the visa queue for those preference categories that are subject to annual numerical visa limitations. As we have mentioned in previous videos, the Visa Bulletin is published every month and allows applicants to estimate how long they need to wait in “line” before they are eligible to apply for their green card based on their preference category and country of nationality.

Family Sponsored Preference Categories

If you are applying for a green card under family sponsorship and you are not applying as the spouse, unmarried child (under 21 years of age), or parent of a U.S. Citizen, then you must wait in “line” in the visa queue until a visa becomes available to you before you can apply for a green card, according to your priority date on the Visa Bulletin.

For family-sponsored petitions, the priority date is the date when your I-130 petition was properly filed with USCIS. You can check your I-130 petition priority date by looking at your I-797 Notice of Action issued by USCIS, also commonly known as a “receipt notice.” There will be a box on the top left-hand corner which indicates the “priority date.”

Employment-Based Preference Categories

The priority date in an employment-based petition is the date on which either the Labor Certification has been received by the Department of Labor (for petitions where a Labor Certification is required) OR on the date that USCIS received the I-140 petition (for petitions where no Labor Certification is required such as the National Interest Waiver). Again, you can check the date when your I-140 was received by checking your I-797 Notice of Action issued by USCIS (receipt notice).

How do I know when my priority date is current?

The Visa Bulletin is your guide to determine whether your priority date is current (bookmark this page now to stay on top of it). At the beginning of each month, the Department of State releases the Visa Bulletin. It is your responsibility to review the Visa Bulletin every month to keep track of your place in “line” in the visa queue for your particular preference category.

If you are inside the United States and you are eligible to apply for a green card through adjustment of status (Form I-485), then you will need to also check the USCIS Adjustment of Status Filing Charts webpage to determine which chart you must look at to determine if your priority date is current.

As an example, USCIS will be using the Dates for Filing Chart of the December 2023 Visa Bulletin to determine when an adjustment of status (I-485) application can be filed in the month of December.

Let’s imagine that I am an F2A Spouse of a Permanent Resident from Mexico. My Form I-130 priority date is January 1, 2022. I know this because my Notice of Action shows this as my priority date on the top left-hand corner (the date my application was received by USCIS).

Upon checking the Dates for Filing chart of the December 2023 Visa Bulletin I see that the F2A category for Mexico is “September 1, 2023.”

That means that F2A Mexican nationals with a priority date earlier than the stated date are eligible to apply for adjustment of status with USCIS. In this scenario, my priority date would be “current” because “January 1, 2022” is earlier than “September 1, 2023.” This means I have reached the front of the line in the visa queue and I am ready to apply for my I-485 green card with USCIS.

If my priority date had been after “September 1, 2023” then I would need to continue waiting in line.

What happens when your priority date becomes current?

Once your priority date becomes “current” you have reached the front of the line in the visa queue, and it is now your turn to apply for your green card.

If you are inside of the United States when your priority date becomes current and you qualify for adjustment of status, you will prepare your I-485 application and supporting documentation for filing with USCIS.

If you are outside of the United States, your case will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) which will collect visa fees and further supporting documentation from you called “civil documents” before your case can be scheduled for a green card interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad. Such applicants will be required to submit the Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application online. The civil documents that must be submitted vary by country but generally include copies of birth certificates, marriage and/or divorce certificates, police records, military records, etc.

For a complete list of civil documents by country click here.

You will be required to collect such documentation and submit them through your Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) portal according to the National Visa Center’s instructions.

Once you have submitted all necessary documents to the National Visa Center via the CEAC portal, you will receive a notification that your case is “documentarily complete.”

Documentarily Complete Cases at the National Visa Center

Once you receive notification that your case is documentarily complete, the NVC will work with the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your region to schedule your immigrant visa interview appointment.

Please note that before your case can be scheduled for an interview appointment, your priority date must be current on the Visa Bulletin. If your priority date is not current, then you will not be scheduled for an interview even if your case is documentarily complete, because Embassies and Consulates do not have visas available for you.

Applicants with a current priority date and cases that are documentarily complete should be proactive and contact the National Visa Center (NVC) to notify them that the case is ready for interview scheduling. You may contact the NVC online through the Public Inquiry Form.

How long will it take for my Consular interview to be scheduled once my priority date is current and my case is documentarily complete?

This all depends on the interview scheduling backlog at your U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Certain posts are busier than others and may take quite some time to schedule your interview based on the heavy demand for visa interview slots and limited personnel available. You can review your Embassy’s wait times by visiting their webpage.

If you have been waiting for your interview to be scheduled for an unreasonable period of time (over one year) it may be beneficial for you to discuss possible options to move your case with an immigration attorney.

Note for Family Sponsored Categories

If you were initially petitioned by a Permanent Resident who is now a United States Citizen, you must notify the National Visa Center immediately of their changed immigration status. This could boost your place in line or bump you up to a more favorable preference category. In other cases, you may no longer need to wait in line. For instance, spouses of Permanent Residents are subject to the numerical limits and must wait their place in line in the visa queue, but spouses of U.S. Citizens are not subject to numerical limits and can apply for green cards immediately.

Contact Us. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-569-1768 or call 619-819-9204.

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