Green card applicants receive a priority date after submitting their applications for permanent residency. The green card priority date refers to the applicant's place in the visa queue to receive his green card. When the applicant's priority date becomes "current," he will be able to file for Adjustment of Status and receive his green card.

Green card priority dates are given to applicants when the number of visa applications exceeds the supply for each green card category in a given year. Green card applications are placed on the list or queue according to the date of their case filing. Applicants can find their green card priority date on their Form I-797, Notice of Action, for their petition.

Immigrant Visa Preference Categories

Your priority date will be based on your preference category. Visa preferences include:

  • Family-based immigrant visas, including family-based visa preference categories:
    • Family First Preference (F1)
    • Family Second Preference (F2)
    • Family Third Preference (F3)
    • Family Fourth Preference (F4)
  • Employment-based immigrant visas, including employment-based visa categories:
    • Employment First preference (E1): Priority Workers
    • Employment Second Preference (E2): Advanced Degree Professionals
    • Employment Third Preference (E3): Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers
    • Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain Special Immigrants
    • Employment Fifth Preference (E5): Immigrant Investors

Immigrant Visa Limits

The number of immigrant visas is limited in each of these immigrant visa categories. The US Department of State (DOS) allocates the immigrant visa numbers. The annual visa limits are:

  • Minimum 226,000 family-sponsored preference visas
  • Minimum 140,000 employment-based preference visas

The number of allotted visas may be exceeded if the immigrant visa numbers from the year prior were not fully used.

Basis of Green Card Priority Date

Your green card priority date is based on your preference category and your birth country. There are three things that determine how quickly you may have to wait until you receive an immigrant visa.

  • Demand and supply of immigrant visas.
  • Per-country visa limitations.
  • Number of visas allocated for the applicant's preference category.

Based on what category you have filed, your green card priority date definition may be different.

  • If your category is employment-based green card and requires a labor certification, the priority date is established on the date a labor certification is filed with the State Workforce Agency.
  • If your category is employment-based but does not require a labor certification, then the priority date is established on the date the CIS receives the I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition.

Note: However, the priority date does not attach to your case until the I-140 has been approved.

Green Card Priority Date FAQs

What is my Green Card Priority Date?

Your green card priority date will be printed in the top portion of the Form I-797 receipt notice.

What is the meaning of a priority date being "current"?

In order for an individual to obtain an immigrant visa (Green Card), a visa number must be available to you. This is referred to as the priority date being "current." The priority date is current if there is no backlog in the category. If you have a current priority date, your immigrant visa number is immediately available, and you may apply for permanent residence or adjustment of status.

How do I know if my priority date is current?

You can see the priority dates currently being processed in the current visa bulletin, which is published each month by the US Department of State.

What does it mean if my priority date retrogrades?

If this occurs in your application after filing for adjustment of status or once consular processing has started, your application will be archived and won't be processed until your priority date once again becomes current.
Do not assume that the priority date does not matter if it becomes current and adjustment of status is applied. Your priority date will continue to matter until you receive your green card.

What is the priority date for family-based applications?

Your priority date will be when Form I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative, was received by USCIS.

What is the priority date for employment-based applications?

Your priority date for an alien labor certification application will be the date when your application was received by the Department of Labor. If you are seeking the NIW/EB1 route, your priority date will be when Form I-140 is received by the USCIS.

Where is the priority date listed?

When your visa application for a green card is approved, USCIS will issue you an approval on Form I-797, Notice of Action. Your priority date will be clearly indicated on this form.

Once your priority date is current, you can apply for Adjustment of Status.