By Alexandria Lewis
On September 9, 2015, the State Department began publishing a revised monthly Visa Bulletin reflecting a new process that allows earlier dates for the filing of adjustment of status for foreign nationals seeking U.S. permanent residency and advances the processing of immigrant visa applicants at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad.
This Visa Bulletin revision was made in response to President Obama’s Presidential Memorandum of November 21, 2014, directing federal agencies to develop recommendations to improve the current visa system and to implement certain needed reforms to bring the U.S. immigration system in line with current economic and national security needs.
Adjustment of status applicants often wait many years for their visa numbers to become available to allow for the filing of their green card applications. In response to the Obama administration’s reform objectives, the State Department, in conjunction with the USCIS, developed new policies permitting the early filing of adjustment of status applications by individuals as well as advancing immigrant visa processing for overseas applicants with pending immigrant petitions and non-current priority dates. The individuals who take the opportunity to file early for adjustment of status will receive the benefits of having a pending adjustment application such as advance parole travel permission and employment authorization.
The monthly Visa Bulletin now reflects the revised process by exhibiting two charts for the family and employment-based preference categories. The first chart will determine final action dates, which are dates when immigrant visas may be finally issued or adjustment of status accomplished. The other chart will determine filing dates, which are dates when applicants may begin final immigration application filings.
The State Department’s National Visa Center will prompt immigrant visa applicants to advance their visa application process if their priority date is earlier than the date listed on the “Filing Date” chart for their preference category and country of chargeability. If the priority date is current and document processing completed, an immigrant visa interview may be scheduled.
Inside the U.S., adjustment of status applicants may file their applications based on either the “Final Action Date” chart, or the “Filing Date” chart. If their priority date is earlier than the “Filing Date” deadline, they may file adjustment applications that month and may also apply for the benefits of employment authorization and advance parole. If the applicant’s priority date is reached on the “Final Action Date” chart, then the adjustment application may be approved by the USCIS.
 On September 25, 2015, the State Department and USCIS issued a replacement October 2015 Visa Bulletin that retrogressed permitted filing dates for several categories of immigrants, including EB-2 India, EB-3 Philippines, EB-2 China, and EB-3 China. This retrogression on permitted filing dates drastically reduced the number of applicants who could file adjustment applications beginning on October 1, 2015. The replacement bulletin maintained the State Department’s ability to improve and streamline the system for determining when immigrant visas are available to applicants during the fiscal year, but retrogressed permitted filing for affected prospective employment-based immigrants.