What Is My Priority Date?

On a daily basis, our office receives many questions from individuals regarding the priority date of their immigrant application. This article will try to provide answers to the most common questions regarding priority dates that we receive.

What is a Priority Date?
A priority date is a person's place in line for becoming a permanent resident of the United States. Most green cards are numerically limited, depending on your country of birth, and the family or employment category by which you are obtaining permanent residence. Therefore, it is important for individuals seeking to become a permanent resident to obtain a priority date as early as possible.

How do I establish a priority date?
For the family-based categories, a priority date is established when your relative submits a visa petition (form I-130) on your behalf.
For the employment based categories, a priority date can be established in one of the following two ways:

• When your employer submits an application for an alien labor certification on your behalf; or

• For those categories where no labor certification is required, when you or your employer submits a visa petition (Form I-140) to the USCIS on your behalf.

If I switch jobs before my I-140 is approved, Can I keep my priority date?
If your case involves an alien labor certification application, the answer to this question is no. On the other hand, if your case does not involve alien labor certification, and you or your employer has filed an I-140 visa petition, you or your new employer can file a new I-140 and keep the earlier priority date.

If a person's status changes from one preference category to another, what happens to their priority date? For instance, if your parents filed an I-130 on your behalf when you were under 21 and unmarried but now you are over 21 and married.
If your dad or mom was a citizen when he or she filed the initial petition on your behalf, your priority date does not change. However, the preference category under which you qualify for the immigrant visa changes. For instance if you turned 21 and are unmarried, you are no longer considered an "immediate relative" but are now an unmarried son or daughter under the first preference category. When you get married, you become a married son or daughter under the 3rd preference category. Throughout all of these category changes, your priority date remains the day that your parent first filed a petition.

If your mom or dad was a permanent resident when he or she initially filed the I-130 petition on your behalf, the situation is very different. The filing of an I-130 petition as an unmarried child of a permanent resident places you in the Family 2A preference category. When you get married, this visa petition is automatically terminated since permanent resident parents are not allowed to petition for married sons or daughters. However, if your parent naturalized prior to your marriage, your petition remains valid, and upon your marriage, you are classified in the family 3rd category.

My EB3 (Employment-Based 3) Priority Date is May 2003. I filed I-485 last year. My priority date is currently unavailable. Is Consular Processing still an option for me?
You cannot adjust status or consular process until your priority date is current.

My Employer filed for my labor certification (LC) through the RIR (Reduction-in-Recruitment) process last year. Can we now file the LC through PERM and maintain the original priority date?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if a job order has not been placed for a pending, non-PERM labor certification application, the application may be re-filed under PERM without loss of the priority date if the new PERM labor certification is identical to the previously filed RIR labor certification. In order to re-file and maintain the priority date, the PERM application must be submitted pursuant to all PERM requirements and it must contain an identical job opportunity.

Is there a document or receipt which tells me that I have a priority date?
When the USCIS approves an employment-based or family based visa petition it sends both the petitioner and the lawyer a Notice of Approval (Form I-797). This document shows your priority date.

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