Green Card Process | Visa Bulletin Cut-off | Immigration to the United States

Visa Bulletin Cut-off Dates vs. USCIS Processing Times And The Green Card Process

I am from India and my sister filed an I-130 petition on April 11, 2003 for me. In the November 2009 Visa Bulletin, the cutoff date is June 15, 1999. But according to the posted USCIS processing time for the Nebraska Service Center, the current date is August 1, 2004. What is the difference between the Visa Bulletin cutoff date and USCIS processing times? Please let me know if we can file form I-485 to apply for a green card through adjustment of status, or if we need to wait to hear back from USCIS before we go through the green card process. What is the next step?
— Anonymous

You raise a frequently asked question when it comes to immigration to the United States. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Processing Time information on its website has no relation whatsoever to the Visa Bulletin dates, which is published by the United States Department of State.

The USCIS processing times are a guess by the USCIS as to how long it will take it to make a decision on the I-130 petition your sister filed on your behalf.

A decision on the I-130 immigrant visa is made a one of USCIS Service Centers, such as the Vermont Service Center (VSC) or the Nebraska Service Center (NSC). Cases are transferred between the Service Centers depending on each of its backlogs for adjudicating petitions and other factors.
An easy way to understand visa processing and the Visa Bulletin is to think of it in terms of being assigned a number in line at the bakery counter in the grocery store. At the grocery store, once your number is called, then you can place your order. The Visa Bulletin and visa availability works similarly. Once your sister filed the I-130 petition, you received your number in line, which is your priority date and/or receipt date.

In your case, it appears your priority date is April 11, 2003. You must wait in line for the Visa Bulletin’s 4th preference category for India to pass April 11, 2003. As of the December 2009 Visa Bulletin, immigrant visas will be available for petitions with priority dates older than September 8, 1999. Once this date passes April 11, 2003, then a visa number will be available for you (you can place your order for a permanent resident visa) and assuming the I-130 petition is approved, you can start the application process for green card status.

On another note, it appears that you may not be grandfathered under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 245(i) because the visa petition was not filed on or before April 30, 2001. Unless you are otherwise qualified, you may not be able to adjust your status in the United States when a visa number becomes available. It may be best for you to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to discuss the green card process in further detail.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys