Each month, the Department of State (DOS) releases a Visa Bulletin that advises on the availability of immigrant visas. But you already know that right?
You’re really here to learn what is going on with the “magical” priority date so you know if you’re date has arrived or to estimate just how long your wait might be to make it to the USA as a nurse.
But don’t be so quick. Take a moment to review this information and you’ll have a full understanding of the forces at work that control the dates listed in each month’s visa bulletin.
The United States regulates immigration by capping the number of foreign nationals welcomed into the country each year. Each person must have his/her own personal immigrant visa number in order to live permanently in the United States. A foreign national can seek an Immigrant Visa at a U.S. Consulate outside the U.S., or file for an Adjustment of Status with USCIS inside the U.S.
The Visa Bulletin covers both family- and employment-based visas. However, PassportUSA only files for employment-based visas (EB-3) for our qualified healthcare professionals — namely nurses.
PRIORITY DATE – Def: Priority date is a United States immigration concept – it is the date when a principal applicant first reveals his intent of immigration to the US government. For employment-based, such as EB-3, immigration beneficiaries, the priority date is the date an immigration petition is filed at USCIS, under categories where a labor certification is not required (Schedule A occupation including nurses), or when the United States Department of Labor receives a labor certification application, under categories where a labor certification is required. In all cases, the priority dates are not established until USCIS approves the immigration petition. The date establishes one’s place in the queue permanent residency permit (also known as “green card”) application.
Visa Bulletin Concept: Retrogression
The monthly Visa Bulletin lists cut-off dates for different immigration categories and countries of birth. Only those intending applicants with priority dates before the cut-off date are permitted to file their Adjustment of Status (AOS) applications or attend immigrant visa interviews at consulates. The cut-off dates generally move forward over time as old cases are approved or abandoned.
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 cut-off dates can actually retrogress (or roll back). If an individual already has a pending AOS application on file when a retrogression occurs that places the cut-off earlier than the applicant’s priority date, USCIS sets the application aside and will not review it until the priority date is current again.
As an example of retrogression, between June 2014 to April 2015 the theoretical “wait time” for an EB-3 visa went from over six years down to six month — creating much excitement! The even more quickly the “wait time” priority dates for the Philippines EB-3 visas moved forward an amazing 6 years in just 8 months time. Only to be pulled back in the May 2015 Visa Bulletin a whopping 2,649 days! Imagine the disappointment this caused among many a Filipino aspiring to make it to the USA.
Visa Bulletin Concept: Country of Chargeability
For individuals starting the employment-based green card process now, country of chargeability and job requirements are paramount in determining how long the overall process will take. Individuals from countries of chargeability other than China or India with jobs requiring a master’s degree can complete the entire process, from labor certification to receiving the green card, within approximately 1-2 years from start to finish, if there is no backlog of visa availability, i.e., all priority dates are current. Workers whose immigrant visas are chargeable to China or India with jobs requiring only a bachelor’s degree can expect to wait several years after their employer files the labor certification and immigrant visa petition to become eligible to file the final application for the green card itself.
Only a limited number of immigrant visas are available in each category. Immigrant Visas are also limited by the country of chargeability, which is normally the country where the immigrant is born.
Recommendation: Get in the Queue
Now that you have a better understanding of the U.S. Visa Bulletin, what should you do? Well our advice is to make ready now and find a good employer that is currently filing visa for well-qualified nurses. PassportUSA is one such agency that is filing hundreds of new EB-3 petitions each month.
Want advice on what not to do during periods of visa retrogression. Read our article “7 Common Mistakes Made During Visa Retrogression.”