If you have not noticed yet, the priority dates in the 2nd preference employment based category (also known as EB-2) on the Visa Bulletin {insert link to current Bulletin}, has moved up full year for Chinese and Indian nationals!  This significant step forward in priority date is a boon for Chinese and Indian nationals with priority dates between January 1, 2009 and January 1, 2010 as they can now move forward with the last stage of their permanent residency (or “green card”) processing.  Beginning February 1, 2012, USCIS will accept I-485 Adjustment of Status Applications for individuals in the EB-2 visa category from China or India with a priority date of January 1, 2010, or earlier.  Currently for the month of January, USCIS is working on applications filed on or before January 1, 2009.  Before that, the December 2010 Visa Bulletin indicated USCIS was working on cases filed on or before March 15, 2008.

Every year, Congress allots a certain number of immigrant visas for various employment based categories. Foreign nationals from India and China in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories typically wait many many years for an immigrant visa “number” (or “green card”) to become available, because there is a historic backlog for applicants from these countries.  The length that an individual must wait, even after preliminary applications are approved, based on the applicant’s country of birth and priority date.  What is a priority date, you ask?  This is the date on which the first application for the permanent residency processing is filed; depending on the visa category, this could be a Labor Certification Application filed with DOL or an I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker filed with USCIS.  Until the applicant’s priority date becomes current on the Visa Bulletin (published monthly by the US Department of State), the applicant cannot submit, nor can USCIS adjudicate, the final permanent residency application.  Individuals from countries such as India and China typically have to wait longer than nationals of other countries (such as European countries, for example) because far more people from these countries apply for green cards than are allotted to India or China.

The significant advancement of priority dates within the last two months will allow many foreign nationals to file their applications for permanent residency.  However, keep in mind that historic advances in priority dates does not mean that future months will bring the same or similar advancements.  There have been many instances in the past of priority dates becoming completely unavailable or retrogressing to an earlier date.  Therefore, anyone who will be eligible to file their applications this February should take advantage of this opportunity while they can.