Green Card Priority Date Lawyers

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 What Agency Grants Green Cards?

In 1891, Congress created the first federal agency to oversee immigration in the United States. Originally, the Office of Immigration was part of the Treasury Department.

The tasks of this department increased as the number of immigrants migrating to the United States increased. In 1906, legislatures revised the citizenship process and established the Bureau of Immigration to oversee the naturalization of immigrants in the United States.

The next reformation would not occur until the Great Depression, specifically in 1933. The Bureau’s tasks were condensed and assigned to the newly formed Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”). The INS was then tasked with overseeing naturalizations and immigration throughout the country.

Several decades later, a few months after the passing of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (“HSA”), the duties fell to a division of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) known as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”). USCIS is solely responsible for administering green card benefits.

In addition, the HSA also led to the creation of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), which are two federal law enforcement agencies whose employees are now charged with the tasks of enforcing border security and immigration laws.

Types of Green Card Categories

On the USCIS website, immigrants are able to determine whether they are eligible to apply for a green card by selecting one of the green card eligibility categories. Those applying for a green card should review each of these categories on the USCIS website and decide which one is best suited to their current situation.

When applying for a green card, it is important to know what category an immigrant falls under. It will not only bring an immigrant one step closer to obtaining green card status, but this is also where they will get further information on how to apply, the rest of their specific requirements, and whether or not a family member can apply along with them.

Immigrants may qualify for the following types of green cards listed on the USCIS website:

  • Family-based green cards: An individual may be eligible to apply for a green card if they are an immediate family member of a U.S. citizen, such as a child, spouse, parent, widow or widower, fiancé, or another close relative of a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. If a prospective green card candidate selects a subcategory, additional requirements may apply. This is especially true for applicants seeking a marriage visa. Generally, marriage visas are subject to special procedural requirements.
  • Employment-sponsored green cards or work visas: An employer may serve as a sponsor for a green card applicant. An employer may sponsor a worker who possesses an advanced degree or special skills for a specific profession, or possesses extraordinary abilities (e.g., in science, art, athletics, business, education).
    • Additionally, unskilled workers may qualify for employer sponsorship if they agree to perform unskilled labor tasks that require less than two years of experience. The criteria for employment-based green cards are very specific and are assigned by preference-based subcategories.
  • Green cards through special immigrant status or in unique circumstances: These are two separate subcategories and may establish a wide variety of reasons that an immigrant should be issued a green card. Refugees, asylees, religious workers, juveniles, international broadcasters, victims (e.g., of crime, domestic violence, human trafficking, etc. ), individuals with diplomatic status, and those who qualify under the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program are some examples of immigrants who may qualify under these categories.

The United States places a limit on the number of green cards that can be issued per category. An immigrant should consult an immigration attorney before applying for a green card. An attorney will be able to help ensure that an immigrant chooses the category best suited to their particular situation as well as that they properly comply with all green card requirements.

What Is a Green Card Priority Date?

There are many different categories by which a person can apply for a green card. They may include options such as marriage visas, fiancé visas, and family-based visas. The number of green cards or permanent resident visas that can be issued each year varies based on the type of category. In order to ensure equal and fair distribution of visas, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will distribute visas according to the category and priority date.

Priority dates refer to a person’s “place” in the visa queue. A person becomes eligible to apply for a green card when their date becomes active or current. “Priority date” may be relevant for various immigration situations, including:

  • Visa applications for immigrants
  • Status adjustment requests

Form I-797 “Notice of Action” generally contains priority dates for the particular petition that was filed.

What Is the Priority Date for an Applicant?

Priority dates for green cards are determined by a number of factors. These factors change from year to year, as well as the type of visa involved. Factors that determine applicant priority dates include:

  • The yearly demand and supply of immigrant visas
  • Restrictions based on the country of origin (there may be quotas associated with specific countries)
  • Percentages of visas issued for each preference category (these may also depend on the number of visas issued in previous years).

In some preference categories, the priority date is also dependent on when certain papers are filed. For instance, for employment-based visas, the priority date can usually be considered as the date a petition was filed with the USCIS or the date that labor certification was processed by the DOL. Priority dates may be set depending on when a petition was filed with the USCIS for family-based visas.

What Should You Keep in Mind When it Comes to Priority Dates for Green Cards?

When dealing with priority dates, you should consider the following:

  • To trigger a priority date, petitions must be filed properly. Applicants must provide all required signatures, fees, and documentation. In this case, the priority date may be pushed back, or the applicant may be disqualified from applying. Similarly, not submitting an application altogether may negatively affect a person’s priority date and their position in line.
  • Visas may become unavailable in the next month if there are more applicants than available visas. This is known as “visa retrogression” and can affect a person’s eligibility or position in line.
  • Any instances of fraudulent intent in an immigration application may disqualify a person for green card eligibility.
  • In official USCIS Visa Bulletins, applicants can check their priority dates and place them in the visa line. The bulletins often contain important information regarding deadlines.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Green Card Priority Date Issues?

As you can see, determining green card priority dates and deadlines is no easy task. You may need to hire an immigration lawyer in your area if you need assistance with a green card application or with any other immigration issues.

Depending on how your priority date works and what steps you need to take in your application, your lawyer can help you. Additionally, if you need to appear before an immigration judge or immigration panel for an interview, your lawyer can provide legal representation.

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