The United States Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin lists the availability of immigrant visas during the month of publication, and is intended as a guide for all individuals who would like to know if visas are immediately available for a particular category. If a Category is “Current” (indicated by the letter “C” in the Visa Bulletin) then visas are immediately available for issuance. When visas are not available for a particular category, only those individuals with a “priority date” earlier than the one listed on the Visa Bulletin may be issued a visa. Individuals whose priority date is after the one listed in the Visa Bulletin must wait until their priority date is included in the monthly Visa Bulletin. Priority dates do not necessarily advance from month to month and often times the “current” priority date may actually go backwards from one month to the next. The State Department keeps track on whether there are visas available within the category and per-country limits. Because there is a quota on the number of immigrant visas that may be issued per year, the inevitable result is backlogging.

Adjustment of status

Once an immigrant visa petition has been approved the individual may apply for Adjustment of Status. Adjustment of status is submitted to USCIS via form I-485. USCIS conducts a series of background checks and makes a decision on the application. If the application is approved, the individual becomes a Legal Permanent Resident.

Advance parole

Most individuals who have pending applications for adjustment of status are eligible to obtain an advance parole document. The advance parole document allows an individual to leave the United States without abandoning the pending application and to return to the United States after traveling abroad.

Employment authorization document (ead)

Individuals who have pending applications for adjustment of status are eligible to obtain an Employment Authorization Document. An EAD card will allow an individual to lawfully work in the United States while their case is pending.

Consular processing

This is an alternative to adjustment of status, but still requires the immigrant visa petition to be completed. If the applicant is outside of the United States or selects this option instead of adjustment of status, he/she may make an appointment at the United States consulate in their home country, where a consular officer will adjudicate their case.