What does the priority date mean for immigration

The day you apply for a residence card is what is known as the immigration priority date.  In other words, is the way to get an american resident visa. It is a very important date because it indicates when the immigrant can emigrate to the United States.


If you or a family member wishes to process your American residence, Lluis Law immigration attorneys can help you with everything you need. We are experts in immigration with more than 40 years of services in the Los Angeles area and Southern California.


There are certain categories of permanent residence, which must wait for the update of their priority date to continue with the green card application process, after their initial visa application is approved.

This means that a foreigner to whom the USCIS has approved a visa petition may not have a visa number available immediately at the State Department.

What is the priority date on immigration?

It is nothing other than the place on the waiting list that is assigned to a foreigner when applying for a residence visa in the United States.

This list is classified according to the immigrant’s purpose, the category of the immigrant and the priority for the country. In the case of family-based visas, according to the family relationship between the US sponsor and the beneficiary.

The immediate relatives of a US citizen (spouse, children under 21 or parents), have a priority date assigned by USCIS. That date appears in their respective notifications.

However, they don’t have to worry about the priority date, because they always have a visa number available. The limitations are presented to other non-immediate relatives of citizens.

We refer to unmarried children over 21, married children of any age and the siblings of a citizen. As with the immediate family of a legal resident:

  • Spouse.
  • Unmarried children under 21.

The priority date is very important for both groups, as it will be the date when they will have an immigrant visa number available.

Priority dates and visa availability

The government establishes priority dates to categorize each immigrant, according to their relationship with the visa sponsor relative. Also according to the category of employment.

Each year a limit number of residence cards requested for family reasons and for employment reasons is assigned.

On the other hand, there is a limited number of visas available per country, which further restricts the availability of visa numbers. The result is that the number of applications is constantly accumulating.

The number of requests each year exceeds the number of residence cards available. Sometimes it may take years before the immigration process can be completed.

The government then resolves each case, according to the order in which the application is submitted for each category. That is, according to the priority date.

In conclusion, the people to whom a priority date is assigned are those who are classified according to family or employment preference categories.

Priority dates according to immigrant category

Priority dates for categories of non-immediate relatives of an American citizen are:

F1 category . Child of the citizen over 21 years old, single or widowed / divorced.

Category F3 . Son of a married citizen regardless of age.

Category F4 . Brother of an American citizen.

These are the categories for the requests of an immediate relative by a legal permanent resident:

Category F2A . Spouse or single child under 21 years old.

Category F2B . Unmarried son over 21 years. The requirement is that you must be single, widowed or divorced. A permanent resident cannot apply for a residence card for married children.

How is the priority date assigned?

The priority date is assigned according to the date on which the Citizenship and Immigration Service has received the application for a family or employment visa. It is very important that when applying for a visa application you have the support of an experienced immigration lawyer.

Ensure that the application form ( I-130 for foreign relatives or I-140 for foreign workers) is filled out correctly. If it contains errors, it will be returned to the applicant and the priority date will be delayed more than due.

Where can I find the priority date?

The immigration priority date appears on receipt I-797 Notice of Action, which USCIS sends to report your decision to approve the visa. This happens at the same time the immigrant begins the process to obtain the Green Card or Residence Card.

How do I verify my priority date?

To track the priority dates that are becoming current, you should check the Visa Bulletin published monthly by the United States Department of State. The Visa Bulletin is available online and there is a list of visa deadlines for each of the categories.

The categories may be broken down by country due to the established visa limits and according to the demand of each country. This modality is very frequent for countries like China, Mexico, the Philippines and India.

When the Visa Bulletin displays the letter “C” or “current” in the category that corresponds to you and in your respective country, it means that there are numbers of visas available in that category.

To search the Visa Bulletin, you go to the category (F1, F2a, F2b, F3 or F4. If you were born in Venezuela, for example, look at the country column. There you will see a date (month, day and year).

If you see a date after your priority date, it means your time has come. Then you can apply for an immigrant visa for the respective category.

You must wait to be notified by the National Visa Center (NVC). If you are making the adjustment of status simultaneously, you must prepare and submit the application for permanent residence.

Retrocession in the Visa Bulletin

Sometimes the cut-off dates of the Visa Bulletin give a sort of leap back. This is called retrocession and it means that at that time there are no immigrant visas available for a certain category. Even for a whole country in a certain category. This usually happens at the end of the fiscal year.


For more information on priority dates and other procedures related to Green Card application, consular processing or adjustment of status, call Lluis Law’s expert immigration lawyers for a free case review.