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Frequently Asked Questions about USCIS Cut-Off Dates

Our clients often ask about the number of visas (employment and family-based) available annually based on an approved family preference petition or employment preference petition.

The number of immigrants eligible for permanent residence annually is determined by Congress. While there exist no per country quotas, no on country may subscribe to more than 7% of the total number of available immigrant visas in a specific preference category. The annual allotment is further subdivided into monthly allotments. The Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin which allows foreign nationals to keep track of their “priority date” which will determine when the applicant will be eligible to apply for adjustment of status to permanent resident (Form I-485) or immigrant processing at a foreign consular post. It is based upon the annual limit determined by Congress that the Department of State provides a cut-off date for each category of preference for both family-based and employment-based immigrant applications. Family based applicants whose I-130 petition receipt dates are before the priority date published are eligible for file for adjustment of status or consular processing. Likewise, employment-based applicants whose Labor Certifications or I-140 Immigrant Petitions were filed prior to a published priority date published in the Visa Bulletin are also eligible to file for adjustment of status or consular processing.

The priority dates affect those applicants who belong to one of the four categories of preference in family-based immigrant petitions, and theoretically all of the employment-based applicants. However, in practice, the quota for first preference employment-based applicants (aliens with extraordinary ability, outstanding researchers, and multinational executives), fourth preference (certain special immigrants), fifth preference (investors) and religious workers with employment-based petitions is generally always “current” or, available. With respect to family-based immigrant applicants, those foreign nationals who are immediate family members of U.S. citizens (spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21) need not concern themselves with priority dates, because such individuals are considered “immediate relatives” and are therefore not subject to the annual immigrant visa quota.

Read the DOS memo here>>


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