A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Retrogression Will Delay Post-Interview Adjustment Cases

Applying for a U.S. green card through adjustment of status (AOS) is generally a long and complicated process. After submitting the I-485 adjustment application, applicants must wait to be notified by USCIS before taking what is likely the last step of their green card application journey -- the interview. One may believe that if the interview goes well, their I-485 will be approved and they will get their green card right away. This may not be the case.

Visa bulletin cut-off dates change every month. What happens if your visa category's cut-off date retrogresses by the time you have your interview? USCIS has published a confirmation of their policy in such a situation. According to USCIS, if an applicant's priority date no longer meets the visa bulletin cut-off date because of retrogression, USCIS will pause processing and resume again when the applicant's priority date becomes current.

In addition, some I-485 applicants may receive interview notices even though their priority dates are not yet current.  This is because USCIS is trying to maximize usage of resources and interview time slots. In this situation, USCIS will review all available documents, question the applicant, and determine his or her eligibility at the adjustment interview as usual.

If an officer determines the adjustment of status application is approvable at the end of the interview, but a visa number is not yet available for the applicant's category, the officer will provide the applicant with notice that the application is being continued. USCIS Field Offices will forward these cases to the National Benefits Center (NBC) or the Texas Service Center (TSC) instead of holding them. Employment-based applications received before March 6, 2017 are sent to TSC. Cases received on or after March 6, 2017 are sent to NBC. Family-based cases are forwarded to NBC.

USCIS will not notify AOS applicants who have completed their interview when a visa number is available. Applicants must use the visa bulletin to monitor the dates by themselves. The Department of State (DOS) usually releases the following month's visa bulletin by the middle of each month.

USCIS will resume processing of the I-485 application when the applicant's priority date becomes current. Due to the high volume of applications, it may take months for USCIS to finalize the case. If the applicant remains eligible for permanent resident status and there are no outstanding issues, USCIS should approve the adjustment application and send the green card to the applicant by postal services. 

If your application has been transferred to a service center due to unavailability of visa numbers, you have to wait for at least 120 days after your priority date becoming current before making a status inquiry. If you have any issues regarding the AOS application or AOS interview, it is best to consult with a qualified immigration attorney.

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