A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Updates on the October Dual Charts Phenomenon

By now many green card applicants have heard about the all new and improved October Visa Bulletin  - one with two charts for both Family and Employment visa categories.  It is almost like two parallel universes with one representing the reality while the other one our fantasy world. Regardless of our perception of the new bulletin, intending immigrants must take timely and appropriate actions to seize the opportunity before it goes away. Although information is still sketchy and a scheduled stakeholders' conference was rescheduled by USCIS, we can at least confirm the following points: 

-- Starting October, the Visa Bulletin will provide two charts for both employment-based and family-based immigrant visa categories.  The first chart called the "Final Action Chart" (existing chart) is for determining when visa numbers actually become available so that applicants with current priority date will be eligible to receive a green card. The other chart ("Filing Dates" Chart) is new and determines when a visa applicant may file his or her I-485 and related applications (or start National Visa Center processing for overseas applicants).

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-- Applicants who are eligible to file the I-485 applications under the Filing Dates Chart are also allowed to file the related I-765 EAD application and the I-131 Advance Parole Travel Document.
Principal applicants' foreign-born spouses and dependent children may also file their own I-485 and related applications at the same time.

-- For overseas applicants with priority dates earlier than the date listed on the "Filing Date" chart under their preference category, National Visa Center will notify them to collect and submit their civil documents and affidavits of support documents, and begin the immigrant visa application process. 

-- It is important to note that, although the "Filing Date" chart is always effective for overseas applicants (consular processing), it may not be effective every month for adjustment applicants living in the United States.  Adjustment applicants within the United States may rely on the "Filing Date" chart to file their I-485 applications only if USCIS determines there are sufficient immigrant visas available to support the filing of additional adjustment applications.  And USCIS will make that decision on a month-to-month basis.  

-- It is also important to note that these changes only allow green card applicants to file their applications earlier.  Their immigrant visas and green cards cannot be issued unless and until their priority dates are current based on the Final Action Chart.

-- Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at DOS also provided some insight through AILA on the new charts:  (1) The new Filing Date Charts are not new to DOS, which has been using a similar concept called "qualifying dates" to notify visa applicants to start the visa application processes about 8-12 months before visa numbers are expected to be current.  (2) The new charts should not have any negative impact on the movement of the regular cutoff dates.  In fact, if anything, the goal of these changes are to reduce volatility in cutoff dates and provide predictability to both government agencies and visa applicants.  (3) Actual impact of the new charts will become clear in about six months when pre-adjudication of the newly filed I-485s is expected to be complete. 

-- Medical Examination Reports:  Many applicants ask about whether they should submit a medical examination report with their I-485 application.  Under the current USCIS policy, the medical exam report I-693 is only valid for one year.  Therefore, it is very likely that the current batch of applicants would have to submit new reports by the time their priority dates become current eventually. If peace of mind is important to you and you don't mind paying extra for another medical exam, it wouldn't hurt to submit one now.

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