According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), “Generally, the priority date is the date when the immigrant petition is properly filed with USCIS. In some instances, the priority date is when the labor certification application was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor.”
For the employment-based category which requires labor certification, the priority date is established on the date a labor certification is filed with the State Workforce Agency. If your category is employment-based but does not require a labor certification, then the priority date is established on the date USCIS receives the I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition. However, the priority date does not attach to your case until the I-140 has been approved.
Here's why the priority date is important: In order for an individual to obtain a green card visa, a visa number must be available to you. This is referred to as the priority date being “current.” The priority date is current if there is no backlog in your employment-based category, or if the priority date is before the date listed as current in the State Department's monthly Visa Bulletin.
How USCIS processes retrogressed visa cases
If, at the time of adjudication, an applicant's priority date no longer meets the cut-off date published in the Visa Bulletin, due to retrogression, his or her case is placed on hold until a visa once again becomes available. If the adjudication of your Form I-485 will not require an in-person interview at a USCIS office, then your case will be held at the USCIS Service Center where you initially filed your application.
If you have been interviewed at a USCIS office and an employment-based visa is not available, then USCIS may hold your retrogressed case at the Texas Service Center (TSC) upon completion of any required interview and other processing steps.
USCIS will finalize processing of visa-retrogressed cases when applicants' priority dates become available (current) based on the dates in the current month's Visa Bulletin. If USCIS needs updated information from an applicant, it will send out correspondence such as requests for evidence or an interview notice. Therefore, it is very important that applicants keep their addresses current with USCIS.
In our next article we will discuss the three employment-based preference categories.