Each month the State Department publishes the Visa Bulletin, which summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers for a particular month. You can track your priority date and your corresponding immigration preference category, and once your priority date is current you can apply to adjust status to permanent resident, which is the last step in the green card process.
Your priority date is the date of filing the Labor Certification. If your I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker does not require an approved Labor Certification, the priority date is the date of filing the I-140 petition.
The three common employment-based immigration preference categories are as follows:
- Individuals with Extraordinary Ability – can self-petition
- Outstanding Researchers and Professors
- Multinational managers or executives
- National Interest Waiver for individuals with advanced degrees or with exceptional ability – can self-petition
- Members of professions that require an advanced degree or individuals with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business
- A skilled worker (meaning your job requires a minimum of 2 years training or work experience)
- A professional (meaning your job requires at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent and you are a member of the profession)
In 2015, the State Department began to post two charts on the Visa Bulletin,
- Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
- Dates for Filing (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).
After the Visa Bulletin is published each month, USCIS designates which chart to use. When USCIS determines there are immigrant visas available for the filing of additional adjustment of status applications, the Dates for Filing chart may be used to determine when to file an adjustment of status application with USCIS. Otherwise, the Final Action Dates chart must be used to determine when to file an adjustment of status application with USCIS.
If a foreign national has an I-140 approval in the EB2 preference category, it can be advantageous to “downgrade,” or file a second I-140 petition in the EB3 preference category, depending on visa bulletin movement. For example, due to the pandemic, an unprecedented low number of family-based (FB) immigrant visas were issued in fiscal year (FY) 2020, and those unused family-based numbers were added to FY 2021’S employment-based immigrant visa allocation.
This reallocation resulted in rapid advancement in the final action dates and dates for filing of all of the EB categories that were not current, particularly EB3 India and EB3 China. The 2020 October Visa Bulletin presented an unprecedented opportunity for clients who had been waiting years to file adjustment of status applications to finally be able to do so.
The risk of filing an EB-3 downgrade I-140 petition are quite low. When filing an EB-3 I-140 downgrade petition, the PERM Labor Certification from the approved EB-2 I-140 petition will be submitted to USCIS. Practically every PERM that qualifies for the EB2 preference category will qualify for the EB3 preference category. Absent a PERM job opportunity that is no longer valid, or fraud or willful misrepresentation, EB3 I-140 petitions should be successful.
Downgrading from EB2 to EB3 does not create any issues, it actually gives you more options should either category move more favorably than the other. If you choose to file an EB-3 downgrade I-140 petition, your EB-2 approval will remain valid. Once the EB-3 I-140 is approved, you will have two I-140 approvals with the same priority date, one in each category and you can use whichever one will be faster to adjust status when the Final Action Date becomes current. If the EB3 category retrogresses and the EB2 category improves, then you can submit an interfiling request to USCIS, or a request asking that your EB2 I-140 approval be interfiled with your pending I-485 application.
Even if your priority date is only current according to the Dates for Filing chart, it can still prove advantageous to file an EB3 downgrade I-140 petition if it will allow you to apply to adjust status sooner. The Dates for Filing option for the green card process permits applicants to obtain interim benefits, including work authorization and travel documents, and allows them to accept a position with a new employer at an earlier stage in the process:
- Additional work authorization and travel documents: An individual who submits an application for adjustment of status application can concurrently request an employment authorization document (EAD) and advance parole (AP) travel document, which provides the applicant with additional flexibility in employment and international travel.
- Work authorization for spouses: Family members can submit an application for adjustment of status and request EAD and AP documents for themselves.
- Increased worker mobility to new employment: Once the adjustment of status application has been pending for six months, the individual is no longer tied to the sponsoring employer and becomes mobile in the labor market. After six months, most adjustment of status applicants can change employers as long as the new position is “same or similar” to the position for which the green card application was filed.
If you are in H-1B status, you can continue to maintain your H-1B status while the I-485 is pending. We recommend maintaining your H-1B status while the I-485 is pending, in the unlikely event that something happens to your I-485. This is unlikely, but it is a good idea to maintain your H-1B status just in case.
In summary, filing an EB-3 downgrade I-140 petition can be of significant benefit to applicants born in China and India who are subject to the longest priority date backlogs. With an EB-3 I-downgrade I-140 petition, foreign nationals from China and India may be able to file the green card application sooner than anticipated.