If you are a foreign medical graduate and wish to become a permanent resident of the United States, a green card visa must be issued to you. The U.S. government sets limits on how many green card visas may be issued each Fiscal Year (October 1 through September 30) in all visa categories. In the employment-based area where immigration is based on employment, nationals of each country may obtain green card visas in different preference categories (i.e., EB-1, EB-2, EB-3), which we will discuss in an upcoming post.
Visa retrogression occurs when more people apply for a visa in a particular category or country than there are visas available for that month. This results in a quota backlog. No one country may have more than a specific percentage of the total number of visas available to it annually. If these limits are exceeded in a particular category, for a particular nationality, a waiting list is created and applicants are placed on the list according to the date of their case filing. This date is called a “Priority Date.” The priority date is the single most important factor in any immigration case. This, too, will be discussed in an upcoming post.
The Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin which lists the cut-off dates that govern green card visa availability. The monthly Visa Bulletin determines which applicants are eligible to file for adjustment of status, as well as which applicants are eligible for a grant of permanent resident status. Usually the cut-off dates on the Visa Bulletin move forward in time, but not always. Demand for visa numbers by applicants with a variety of priority dates can fluctuate from one month to another, with an inevitable impact on cut-off dates. Such fluctuations can cause cut-off date movement to slow, stop, or even retrogress.
In our next article we will discuss the Priority Date, why it is important, and how USCIS processes retrogressed green card visa cases.