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USCIS Announces New Rules Relating to I-485 Application Filing Dates

The News From USCIS

In an important departure from the current rules regarding when an immigrant can submit their Green Card application, USCIS has announced that starting October 1, 2015, I-485, Applications for Adjustment of Status will be accepted earlier than the date on which a priority date is current.

This is a major change in that it will allow an employment-based Green Card applicant to submit their application for early “pre-processing”. The new filing can be made months and, in some cases, years, before it would have previously been possible. The move was first announced by the Obama Administration in last November’s immigration Executive Action rollout.

The New Visa Bulletin – Two Dates to Understand

The Visa Bulletin, which is published each month by the Department of State, will now contain two separate Employment-based Visa Bulletin charts: one list is for “Application Final Action Dates” which details the earliest dates on which an application can be approved, and one is for “Dates for Filing Applications” which lists the dates on which applications for adjustment of status can be filed under “pre-processing”, and then remain pending until the Final Action Date is reached.

Previous iterations of the Visa Bulletin only contained one consolidated date—the filing date and final action dates were the same. The new system will allow immigrants to file for adjustment of status sooner than they would otherwise have been able to do, creating a number of positive outcomes.

The Benefits of the New Early Filing Rules

Employment-based adjustment of status applicants and employers can anticipate the following direct benefits:

  • Applicants can file for their Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) together with their “pre-processing” I-485, and receive the EADs within 60-90 days. This may allow for greater workforce mobility by lessening the reliance on some employers in the H-1B or L-1 context.
  • Fewer H-1B and L-1 amendments and extensions will be necessary, saving U.S. companies administrative, sponsorship and filing fee costs. (This also saves administrative costs and resources to the State Department by decreasing the amount of visas they will need to adjudicate in these categories.)
  • The early filing allows applicants to avail of the AC-21 portability rule, which allows for a change of jobs 180 days after filing the I-485 without sacrificing the underlying I-140 and pending Green Card. (Although it is not yet clear whether 3-year AC-21 extensions will be negatively impacted by a potentially evolving definition of when a visa is available.)
  • Applicants can file for their Advance Parole Documents (APs) at the same time as their I-485. This allows applicants to travel and then return to the U.S. without having to obtain a new visa from the Embassy or Consulate abroad.
  • The spouses and children (under 21) of applicants can apply for both EADs and APs. This allows for their work, and travel authorization, not to mention simply making life easier, such as by permitting them to apply for a social security number and acting as a reliable form of identification.
  • In a CSPA application, dependents who might otherwise “age out” by turning 21 may be able to keep their status as a derivative child by filing for adjustment of status within one year of the visa availability date.
  • Family-based Applicants also benefit. Although this article is primarily concerned with employment-based immigrants, the Visa Bulletin announcement will affect family-based immigration categories as well, shaving years off of the legal immigration process for many of the family-based preference categories.

The enhanced Visa Bulletin procedures described above significantly modernize our immigration system and are a positive development for employment and family-based immigrants and U.S. companies. We commend President Obama for following through on this important aspect of the immigration Executive Actions announced last November.

 

Reach out to us: for further questions regarding how you may be impacted by the USCIS Visa Bulletin filing dates announcement, contact us to discuss your case.

 

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