October 2017 Update: Actually you might need a lawyer to figure it out. The State Department seems to have removed the very handy Priority Date Checker that this post explains. Click on the link below which will take you to the regular Visa Bulletin updates. There are instructions for checking priority dates in the confusing old way.

Previous post: If you’re waiting for a U.S. green card visa in a certain category called “preference categories” you’re probably wondering how long you’ll wait. The good news is you don’t need a lawyer to figure it out.  The information you need is in the State Department’s monthly Visa Bulletin. As long as you know your category, your priority date, and your “country of chargeability” which is usually your country of birth, you can monitor it yourself. The preference categories are F1, F2A, F2B, F3, F4, and EB-1, EB-2,EB-3, EB-4, and EB-5.

The bad news is no one knows for sure – not lawyers or even the people in charge of the dates. But you can check progress each month yourself, just like lawyers do:

  1. Go to the State Department’s “Priority Date Checker” page.
  2. Scroll down the page to “Priority Date Checker” and enter the information about your case.
  3. It will tell you what the “cut-off date” is. If you have a priority date earlier than the cut-off date then you’re ready to be scheduled for an interview, either abroad at the consulate or in the U.S. by adjustment of status.
  4. The dates are updated by the 15th of each month so you can check regularly to see how the dates are going. Family-based dates usually proceed forward regularly but employment-based visa dates are much less predictable.
  5. There’s nothing anyone can do to speed up these dates. There are quotas in these categories and you have to wait. Sometimes dates even go backwards which is called “retrogression” and can be a shock. If your date becomes “current” i.e. it’s before the cut-off date, proceed promptly to try to avoid retrogression.
  6. In a family-based case, if your U.S. citizen sponsor’s status changes, then your category might change. For example, if your spouse is a green card holder and becomes a U.S. citizen, then your category changes from F2A to IR-1 or CR-1. There’s a quota for F2A, but there’s no quota for IR-1 or CR-1 which means you’d be immediately eligible for a visa.

While you can check the dates yourself, an immigration attorney can help you spot any problems, gather documents and prepare forms so you’re ready to proceed promptly when eligible. This can save significant time and trouble.

You can contact Attorney Ida Keir to discuss your specific situation wherever you are in the world or U.S. For an initial consultation, self-schedule an appointment by Skype, phone or email at our contact page. There is a fee.