Employment Based Priority Jump Forward 3 Years

By Robert L. Reeves and Joseph Elias

The State Department just issued the visa bulletin for immigrant visas available in March 2008. While family-based priority dates barely moved, there was a giant jump for employment-based visas.

The EB-3 category which includes skilled, professional and other workers experienced the biggest jump. Skilled and professional workers priority dates jumped from November 2002, where they had been hovering for the past few months, to January 2005. The other workers category, which had been stuck at October 2001 for several months, jumped to January 2002.

What this jump in numbers means is that many workers in the U.S. will now be able to adjust status to permanent residence. They and their family members will be able to apply for and receive work authorization. Immigrants outside the U.S. will be able to process their immigrant visas at the National Visa Center and appear for an interview at the U.S. consulates in their home country in the month of March.

This represents a significant number of people who can now apply for benefits. The priority dates for March coincide with the last batch of labor certification applications processed by the Department of Labor’s Backlog Elimination Centers (BEC) before the implementation of PERM. The BECs have just completed adjudicating the vast majority of these cases. This advance in priority dates will be the first time beneficiaries of these labor certifications will be able to file for adjustment of status and work authorization.

History has shown us that such gains in priority dates can be short-lived with a retrogression following shortly. These priority dates may not remain at this level beyond the month of March and may fall back again to 2001 or 2002. It is therefore of the utmost importance that immigrants in these categories immediately take advantage of this advance and file for benefits as quickly as possible. The immigration services will keep the applications open until numbers are reached again if adjustment applications are filed while a priority date is current, but the priority dates then fall back. This will allow the immigrant and family members to extend work authorizations while they wait for their priority date to return. Those who do not file in time will not be granted this benefit.

The jump in dates will allow many accountants, nurses, bookkeepers, cooks, caregivers, physical therapists and many in other professions to apply for the final stages of the green card or immigrant visa. Many have been waiting for several years for the BEC’s to approve their labor certifications. This will be the first chance for them since their labor certification approvals to apply for adjustment of status. This opportunity should not be wasted because historically, the priority dates in these categories can retrogress in as quickly as one month. The time for action is now.