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US immigration latest green card priority dates

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The United States Department of State (DOS) has released its July 2014 Visa Bulletin.

The bulletin reveals that the DOS has made considerable progress in bringing cut-off dates forward but there are still considerable delays, particularly in the EB-3 visa category where there is a minimum waiting time of three years plus.

EB-3 applicants from China and India are currently waiting for eight to ten years for a permanent residence visa (or 'green card' as they are popularly known).

The full figures are laid out in a table below.

Priority cut-off dates for Employment based visas

Visa Category General Mainland China India Mexico Philippines
EB-1 None None None None None
EB-2 None 1 Jul 09 1 Sept 08 None None
EB-3 1 Apr 11 1 Oct 06 1 Nov 03 1 Apr 11 1 Jan 09
EB-3 (others) 1 Apr 11 1 Jan 03 1 Nov 03 1 Apr 11 1 Jan 09
EB-4 None None None None None
EB-5 None None None None None

Only applicants who filed their petitions (applied) for a green card before the 'priority cut-off date' can currently apply for their permanent residence visa (or 'green card' as it is known).

Adjustment of status

If they made their initial application before the priority cut-off date, and they are already in the US, for example with an H-1B 'specialty occupation' visa, then providing their petition has been successful, they can apply to US Citizenship and Immigration for 'Adjustment of Status' for a green card.

If they made their initial application before the cut-off date and are living outside the US, they can go to the US consulate or embassy in their country of residence and apply for their green card.

So, for example, if an applicant A from the UK filed his/her EB-3 visa petition on 3rd March 2011 then his/her priority date is 3rd March 2011. The priority cut-off date for EB-3 applicants from most countries is now 1 April 2011. Therefore, A's petition was filed before the cut-off date. He/she can, therefore, apply for Adjustment of Status/ a visa.

Chinese applicants wait longer

However, if an applicant B, from China, had filed his/her EB-3 application on the same day as A, 3rd March 2011, he/she would not be able to apply for Adjustment of Status/a visa because the cut-off date for Chinese applicants is 1st October 2006. Chinese applicants can only apply for Adjustment of Status or a green card if they applied before 1st October 2006.

This confusing system has arisen because of the complexity of the US visa system and because demand for US green cards greatly exceeds supply. Only about 140,000 employment-based visas are available each year and these are split between 5 employment-based (EB) visa categories.

They are divided as follows

Visa CategoryVisas available
EB-1 - Priority workers of extraordinary ability 28% - 40,000
EB-2 Members of 'the professions' with advanced degrees, 'exceptional ability' or 'national interest' 28% - 40,000
EB-3 Skilled workers and professionals 28% - 40,000
EB-3 Other workers Maximum of 10,000 of the EB-3 quota
EB-4 'Special immigrants' including religious workers 7.1% - 9,940
EB-5 Investors 7.1% - 9,940

N.B. Some unused family visas from the previous year may be available for the EB categories each year. If so, the actual number of EB visas will be distributed according to the proportions set out in the table above.

Country caps

Because the US receives many more than 40,000 EB-3 visa applications each year, applicants will not receive EB-3 visas in the year that they apply. Over the years, lengthy waiting lists have accumulated and now, many applicants have to wait for years after making their visa application before there is a visa available for them.

This problem is particularly acute for applicants from some countries with high demand for US visas. This is because only 7% of the total number of visas in any category can go to applicants from one country. (So, for example, only 2.908 EB-2 visas can go, each year, to any one country).

Because many more than 7% of the applicants each year come from several countries with high demand (such as China, India, Mexico and the Philippines), applicants from those countries have to wait longer than other applicants before a visa becomes available.

Indian cut-off date November 2003

Thus, the priority cut-off date for Indian applicants for EB-3 skilled worker visas now stands at 1st November 2003. This cut-off date has actually moved backwards in the last year as have several others for countries with high numbers of visa applicants.

However, the main cut off priority date for most countries has moved forward by four years in the last year, from 2007 to 1st April 2011.

Sanwar Ali of said 'At, we have in-house US immigration attorneys who can help you with all your visa concerns. Please give us a call. We have many years of experience and have helped thousands of people with US visa petitions.

Most EB-3 applicants waiting three years

'There are currently no waiting times for applicants from most countries for EB-1, EB-2, EB-4 and EB-5 applicants though most EB-3 applicants will have to wait for at least three years.

'We would be happy to help with your petition'.

If you would like US visa advice, can help. is a specialist visa consultancy with 25 years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.