By law, there is a quota on the number of people who can be granted permanent resident status (green card) in any given year. Once the quota has been used up, the applicant must wait until a spot becomes available. For employment-based cases, the number of available green cards is based on two factors: the specific employment-based category (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, etc.), and “per country” limits. That is, each employment-based category is given a total number of available green cards, then that number is further divided up by country. Every country, no matter how large or small, is given the same percentage of the worldwide quota. As a result, countries like China and India with large populations are subject to longer waiting times. The number of currently available spaces for a particular country depends on several moving variables, including the new allocation each year, number of approvals/denials, and the number of new people who apply for green cards. When you apply for a green card, you are given a “priority date”, which establishes your place in line. The above factors determine the movement of priority dates and, in turn, affect the number of green card applications that can be filed during the month after the priority dates are released. Once your priority date is “current” you may apply for a green card, which is further described below. For a detailed discussion of quotas and priority dates, please click here.
The Visa Bulletin, published monthly by the U.S. Department of State, shows backlogs in both the family and employment-based categories. If the Visa Bulletin states “C” for a given category and country, the numbers are current in the specific employment-based category, and there is no waiting period for filing the I-485 application. If the numbers are backlogged, a cut-off date is listed. If a foreign national’s priority date is BEFORE the date indicated in the chart for the category and country, the foreign national is eligible to file his green card application during the month when the dates are current. For a detailed explanation of how to read the Visa Bulletin, please click here.
The April Visa Bulletin shows significant advancement in certain employment based green card categories, which are summarized below:
- EB-2: China will advance by nearly eight months, to August 1, 2014.
- EB-3 (Professional and Skilled Workers): China will advance by over six months, to June 1, 2015. India will advance by over a year, to February 1, 2008.
- EB-3 (Other Workers): India will advance by over a year, to February 1, 2008.
Vijay is a citizen of India, and he has an approved I-140 petition in the EB-3 category with a priority date of January 15, 2008. As of the March 2018 Visa Bulletin, Vijay was not eligible to file his green card application. However, the EB-3 category advanced by over a year for India in the April 2018 Visa Bulletin, and Vijay’s priority date is now before the listed date of February 1, 2008 for EB-3 petitions filed by nationals of India. Therefore, Vijay may now apply for a green card.
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