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EB1A Priority Dates

What is the EB1A Visa? 

The EB1A visa is an immigrant visa that allows individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to permanently come to the United States for employment within their field of expertise. Qualifying applicants must have national or international recognition for their ability. 

What is the Priority Date on the Visa Bulletin?

Understanding the Visa Bulletin

The visa bulletin is where individuals who have filed petitions for U.S. Green Cards, such as the EB1A visa, can see which round of Green Card applications are eligible to move forward in the process.

The visa bulletin includes a chart that informs Green Card applicants of “dates for filing,” or “final action dates” along with cut-off dates. Cut-off dates are the month, day, and year shown beside each category on the charts that indicate whether an applicant has a Green Card available for them.

Applicants are provided their own date, known as a “priority date,” which the applicant must compare to the dates listed under the EB1 visa category on the visa bulletin. When an applicant’s priority date is earlier than the dates on the dates for filing or final action date chart, the priority date is referred to as “current” or marked with a “C” and the applicant is eligible to either file their Green Card application (dates for filing chart) or a Green Card is ready for issuance (final action dates chart). 

Cut-off dates on the final action dates charts inform applicants when their Green Card is ready for approval. And, cut-off dates on the dates for filing charts inform Green Card applicants when it is time to submit their application with the NVC, which means the Green Card will likely be ready for approval within the next year.

The length of time it takes for an applicant’s priority date to be earlier than the filing or final action date depends on the number of applicants seeking issuance of the visa type, and the annual number of visas made available by the U.S. government for that visa type. 

The visa bulletin is updated and posted each month by the United States Department of State on its website. Individuals who have petitioned for a Green Card must refer to the visa bulletin to know where their Green Card application is in the approval process. 

Priority Dates

Every individual applying for an immigrant visa, like the EB1A visa, is issued a priority date after his or her visa petition is filed. Both the final action date chart and the dates for filing chart on the visa bulletin shows a month, day, and year under the EB1A visa and other immigrant visa types. 

If an individual applicant’s priority date is earlier than the listed final action date, then his or her Green Card is authorized for issuance. If an individual’s priority date is earlier than the listed date for filing, then the individual may file his or her application for the EB1A visa.

Where is the EB1A Visa on the Visa Bulletin? 

The visa bulletin does not distinguish between different types of EB-1 (employment-based first preference) visas. Thus, where the visa bulletin lists the filing and final action dates for the EB-1 visa, it includes the EB-1A, EB-1B, and EB-1C visas. 

How Long Until My EB1A Priority Date is Current?

Generally, there is no specific or predetermined amount of time an applicant will have to wait for their priority date to become current. The length of time depends on various factors, including the number of applicants, the annual quota or cap of visas made available by the U.S. government, the applicant’s country of origin, and the processing times at National Visa Centers (NVCs) and U.S. Consulates or Embassies abroad. 

Priority date wait times can range from no wait time to five years, depending on the above factors. It is common for there to be no wait time at all for the EB1A visa, which means priority dates are “current” and marked on the visa bulletin with “C”. On the other hand, countries such as China or India may show dates that are not current because the population size of those countries creates more demand for a limited number of available visas.

Why Do Specific Countries Have Cut-Off Dates? 

U.S. law limits the number of employment-based visas that are available to be issued each year, including EB1A visas. The law also limits the number of employment-based visas that can be issued to applicants from individual countries. Because the EB1A visa is a subcategory of employment-based visas, there is an even smaller number of EB1A visas available to any individual country.

The larger population size of countries like China and India tend to create a higher demand for visas, including the EB1A, than most other countries. The higher demand can cause a wait among applicants from those countries because of the limits U.S. law places on the annual amount of issued visas. 

What is the Annual Limit on Issued EB1A Visas? 

The EB1A visa is a subcategory of the larger employment-based visa category, and a subcategory of the first preference employment-based visas. 

Among all employment-based visas, there are only 140,000 available to be issued each year. When looking at only the EB1 subcategory, there are around 40,000 visas issued each year, which includes both EB1A and EB1B visas.

The annual limit placed on first preference visas (like the EB1A and EB1B) that are available to be issued is capped at 7% of the total annual visas for both employment-based and family-preference visas, or 25,620. 

As you can see, the annual cap for individual countries is not adjusted for population size, causing a greater number of people in more populated countries to compete for the same 25,620 visas while less-populated countries have the same cap but generally fewer applicants. 

It is important to note that applicants are not “competing” against each other for a visa. Visas are issued based on the date the applicant submits their documentation, otherwise known as their “priority date,” and the amount of other applicants who have an earlier priority date. The timing or speed at which visas are issued to individuals is not based on whether they are “more qualified” than other applicants. That said, an individual with a later priority date from a country with lower-demand for visas may receive a visa sooner than someone with an earlier priority date who is from a country with high demand for visas because of the per-country cap.

Premium Processing 

Premium processing speeds up the time it takes the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to come to its decision regarding an applicant’s petition. This means that a faster approval of the Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker will result in a sooner priority date. If the dates for the EB1 visa on the Visa Bulletin are “current,” then premium processing can especially expedite the application and approval process toward issuance of a visa. 

The premium processing fee is $2,500 with a guarantee of a maximum 15 day approval time. If the applicant’s petition is not approved within 15 days, the fee will be refunded. Applicants can choose premium processing by submitting Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service along with the fee. Premium processing does not guarantee an applicant will ultimately be issued a visa or that a visa will be available to be issued to them within 15 days. 

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

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