Current US immigration legislation that specifies when a person can apply for a Green Card is set to change. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service [USCIS] has announced that commencing October 1, 2015, I-485 applications for adjustment of status [applying to switch to a "Green Card"] will be 'accepted earlier than the date on which a priority date is current.'
Early filing for a Green Card will be highly beneficial for applicants as they will be able to apply for work authorisation earlier than would otherwise be the case and be eligible to work freely for any employer; they will also not need to apply for an extension to a current, temporary work visa to remain in the Country such as an H-1B non-immigrant visa or an L-1 visa.
The changes mean that a family or employment-based Green Card applicant can lodge their application for 'early pre-processing.' A new application can be made months, and in some cases, years, in advance where it would not have been possible previously.
Proposals to change the submission date of I-485 forms, which permits applicants to apply for permanent residency in the US or adjust their current status, were first announced by President Obama's Administration in November 2014 during the immigration Executive Action rollout.
The October 2015 version of the Department of State Visa Bulletin will feature two, separate Family and Employment-based Visa Bulletin charts. One of the charts will contain 'Application Final Action Dates', which will show the earliest date that an I-485 filing can be approved.
The second chart will show 'Dates for Filing Applications', which will provide dates on which adjustment of status applications can be filed for 'pre-processing.' These would remain pending until a 'Final Action Date' is reached.
Previous versions of the Visa Bulletin would only feature one consolidated date, both the filing date and the final action date were the same. The changes will allow immigrants to lodge an application for a Green Card and work authorisation much sooner than they would have been allowed to do previously.
Following the release of the October Visa Bulletin, a new version will be issued in November, and every month afterwards, detailing USCIS changes.
New early filing rule benefits
The direct benefit to family and employment-based Green Card applications include:
- Applicants being able to file for their Employment Authorization Documents [EADs] along with their 'pre-processing' I-485 forms. Applicants would receive their EADs within 60-90 days. This could lead to improved workforce mobility by reducing the reliance on employers for an H-1B or L-1 visa.
Additionally, employment authorization means you can work for multiple employers. It is no longer necessary for people to apply for an extension of their non-immigrant visas.
- As there will be less of a need for employers to file H-1B and L-1 visa extensions US businesses will save on administrative and visa filing costs. Furthermore, the Department of State will also see a reduction in the number of visas that would need adjudicating across these categories.
- Early filing means applicants can benefit from the AC-21 'portability rule', which permits a person to change jobs 180 days after lodging an I-485 application. This can be done without sacrificing the I-140 and pending Green Card.
- Applicants will be allowed to file for Advanced Parole [AP] documents at the same time as filing for their I-485. This permits applicants to leave the US and then return without the need to obtain a new visa from the Embassy or Consulate abroad.
- Spouses and children [under the age of 21] of applicants can lodge applications for EADs and APs. This makes work, travel and life in general, much easier. They can apply for a social security number, for instance.
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