New Procedure Allows Foreign Nationals Subject to Green Card Backlogs to Obtain Certain Benefits Sooner

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a significant change in the procedure for issuing Permanent Residence Status (or Green Cards) to foreign national workers.  Many foreign national workers are subject to substantial “backlogs” in the issuance of Green Cards after an employer has sponsored them for permanent status.  This is due to the federal immigrant visa quota system which limits the total number of employment-based Green Cards that be issued in a fiscal year.  The system limits issuance by type of application, for example, Employment Based 1, Employment Based 2, or Employment Based 3 (also referred to as EB-1, EB-2, etc.) and the nationality of the sponsored employee.  The practical consequence has been that nationals of oversubscribed countries such as India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines have faced extra waiting periods, in some cases topping a decade, for issuance of Green Cards.  Although there are rules which allow these individuals to remain in the U.S. until the permanent status is issued, they experience greater uncertainty and less flexibility with career mobility.

Foreign nationals subject to Green Card “backlogs” can now proceed to the final phase of the permanent residence process at an earlier stage.

The new policy does not radically change the immigrant visa quota system, but it does allow for earlier realization of certain benefits for those foreign nationals subject to the backlog.  Individuals in these categories will now be able to proceed to the final phase of the Green Card process at an earlier stage.  This final phase is known as the I-485 Adjustment Application.  The federal government publishes the dates upon which Green Card applicants can file the I-485 Adjustment Application in the monthly Visa Bulletin.  Historically, the Visa Bulletin only contained the date upon which an immigrant visa number (or Green Card number) became available to foreign nationals in these categories (referred to as becoming current).  This triggered the authorization to file the I-485 Application.  Under the new procedure, the Visa Bulletin will now include two authorization dates:  the Date for Filing Applications and the Date for Final Action.  The Date for Filing Applications will now serve as the green-light for lodging the I-485 Application and, in theory, will allow foreign nationals subject to the back-log to enter this final phase of the process earlier.

To illustrate the point, under the just released October 2015 Visa Bulletin which reflects the new procedure, an Indian national who filed in the EB-2 category can lodge an I-485 Application if his or her initial Green Card application date (the priority date) is on or after July 1, 2011.  This is the new Date for Filing Applications for that category.  Under the old system, the Indian national would have been subject to a backlog filing date of May 1, 2005.  This allows the individual to enter the final phase of the process nearly six years earlier.

Foreign national workers who are subject to the backlog categories will be eager to lodge I-485 Applications under the new procedure as soon as possible.

Foreign national workers who are subject to the backlog categories will be eager to lodge I-485 Applications if their Date for Filing Applications is now current under the new procedure.  Filing of the I-485 Application allows these workers to obtain work authorization for spouses and dependents.  It also allows them in certain cases to transfer their Green Card process to a new employer.

The immigration experts at FordMurray are here to assist you with understanding the new Visa Bulletin system and to work with employees to lodge applications on the accelerated schedules.  You can contact us at (207) 613-7331.

If you represent a business, we can help you with your immigration needs. Immigration law is complicated, to say the least, and we specialize in helping businesses make sense of existing laws and comply with fastchanging requirements.

Whether it’s hiring a foreign national and helping that individual immigrate into the United States, assisting an employee already living in the US with an immigration status, helping your business stay in compliance with immigration programs like I9 or EVerify, or assisting with other immigration matters… we want to help!

Contact us today for more information!