Why is my priority date so important? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our offices in St. Louis, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. Why am I talking so strangely today? I’m just playing around with you.
The reason your priority data is so important is because that sets your place in line. For those of you who have applied already, you understand that when you apply for your benefit, it can be for a green card, it can be for a replacement green card, it can be for an overseas visa for a spouse or family member, it can be for citizenship, that when you file that application, USCIS usually sends you back a receipt notice relatively quickly. Two or three weeks later, you’re going to get a receipt notice back. Let’s say that you apply for citizenship. You’re going to get an N-400 receipt notice. It’s going to have your new case number on it, the number that USCIS uses to look up your case. It’s also going to have a priority date. That priority date is your place in line. Your place in line is your priority date.
There’s somebody out there in the world who has a priority date one day before you, and there’s somebody else who has that priority date one day after you. Let’s say that your priority date is July 5th, 2022, and someone else would have a priority date of July 3rd, 2022, or July 4th. It wouldn’t be July 4th, but that would be their place in line. The priority date comes in, in several ways. Number one, allegedly, USCIS processes things according to the priority dates. I don’t think that they do. Every case sort of is its own case. Of course, we know that they discriminate against people from certain countries or with certain backgrounds. A priority doesn’t necessarily determine when you’re going to have your interview, but it does give you a general ballpark figure as to when they’re going to start working on your case.
That brings up the issue of processing time. In most immigration applications, there will be posted processing times where you can look at where your case is pending, when it was filed, and how long it’s taking them to adjudicate those kinds of cases. You need to know your priority date in order to be able to look at the processing times in a meaningful way. Now, those viewers of mine who watch these videos often know that I don’t believe much in processing times; that it’s mostly just BS spinned from USCIS that you can’t really rely on.
The other main reason why processing dates are important is because that can also impact when you apply for a benefit. Sometimes you’ll file the underlying petition like an I-130, an I-140, which is an employment petitioner, or an I-360, and your priority date won’t necessarily become current. Now, remember, there are not an unlimited supply of every type of visa, that there’s many types of visas of which there is a cap. Whenever we have a cap, there’s a backlog. If you’re paying attention to the visa bulletin, you’ll know that you have to at the visa bulletin every month, and you have to compare your priority date, and that will tell you when you can apply for certain benefits.
If you’re not an immediate relative of a US citizen, most likely there’s going to be a backlog if you’re applying based on employment or on some other non-immediate relative situation, in some other family situation, you’re going to have to wait until your priority date becomes current. You’ll hear me say that a lot, that is your priority date current. The way that we know that it’s current is that the National Visa Center of the State Department has issued their visa bulletin for that month, and they said, “Okay, everybody who applied in July of 2022, we’re now processing those cases. You can now apply.” The priority date dictates sometimes when you can apply for the ultimate immigration benefit that you’re after.
Then the other thing, of course, with priority dates is that, in my mind, that impacts when you can sue USCIS. If your priority date is two and a half years ago, and you’ve been waiting for citizenship, or for a green card, or for a family member to come to the United States, then obviously we’re going to take that more seriously in a lawsuit situation than we would if your case has been pending for one year.
These are the ways that priority dates are important. It’s definitely a phrase that you need to understand if you’re going through the immigration process, especially if it’s not as an immediate relative of a US citizen and if there’s some kind of backlog on your case type,
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