Priority Dates for Immigration to the US
The USCIS and the Department of Labor process all petitions filed with them and either approve or deny
them. When a petition or an application for a labor certification is approved, it does not mean that a visa
will be automatically or immediately be issued to the beneficiary.
There may not be enough visas available as the number of immigrant visas that may be issued every
year is limited by law. Sometimes, there are just far too many approved applications for immigration
than there are visas available every year that a backlog is created. Thus, there is a visa queue and all
applications received are given a priority date.
What is a Priority Date?
All available visas are issued to specific preference categories, country of chargeability and by priority
date. For example, for any given month, there are x number of visas available for second preference
family petitions from China.
There are four family preference categories and five employment preference categories. The country of
chargeability is the country the beneficiary comes from. The priority date is the date when the USCIS
received your Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) or the date when the US Department of Labor
received the application for a labor certification filed by your US employer.
The priority date is not the same as the date when the petition was approved. The date of the approval
of the petition is always later than the priority date. Rather, the priority date is the date when the
petition was received. The beneficiary’s place on the visa queue is determined by the priority date. It
determines the beneficiary’s place on the waiting list for the issuance of an immigrant visa. When the
USCIS issues a bulletin for available visas, it specifically issues visas mentioning these three factors
(preference category, country of chargeability and priority date).
Why is there a Priority Date?
The number of immigrant visas that may be issued every year are limited per preference category and
per country of chargeability. That is, a specific number of visas are issued for each preference category
and for each country. There is a backlog because there are more applications for immigrant visas than
there are visas available. To ensure that the issuance of visas will be efficient and fair, the date on which
the Petition for Alien Relative or the Application for Labor Certification is received determines the order
of issuance of visas.
How do I know what my Priority Date is?
When a US citizen, a US Lawful Permanent Resident or a US employer files a petition for immigration on
your behalf, you will be sent a Form I-797 or a Notice of Action. The Notice of Action will state what your
priority number is.
How do I know when the petition will be processed for my priority date?
The USCIS issues a Visa Bulletin every month. It publishes the available visas for overseas immigrant visa
applications and adjustment of status applications that will be processed and issued in specific
preference categories and specific countries of chargeability. It shows the priority dates for which
immigrant visas are available as well as the countries and preference category for which visas are
Do you wish to know when an immigrant visa will most likely be issued to you? Although it is impossible
to pinpoint with any degree of accuracy exactly when an immigrant visa may be issued, an immigration
lawyer may be able to give you an estimate of the number of months or years before one is issued to
you. If it is important for you to know when a visa may likely be issued to you, you can speak with any of
the immigration lawyers at Lluis Law. They are willing to give you an estimate. Call us today.