Clarity and Strength in Immigration Law

What is a priority date?

In most cases, there are three major factors that determine how soon an applicant for permanent residence status will receive the green card:

  1. The country he/she was born in.
  2. The family-based or employment-based category (see below).
  3. The priority date.

There are a limited number of family-based and employment-based immigrant visas (green cards) available each year. To allocate those visas in an orderly manner, the Department of State (the agency responsible for allocating the immigrant visas) allocates a certain number of visas for various categories, depending on the country that the applicant was born in (not the country of citizenship; see # 1 above). For family-based permanent residence cases, there are also various categories depending on the relationship between the person who files the petition (the petitioner) and the person who will receive the green card (the beneficiary). For employment-based cases, there are various categories depending on the requirements for the position for which the green card application is filed.

Each beneficiary, whether family-based or employment-based, receives a priority date. This date is the date that the petition, or in certain employment-based cases, the labor certification, is filed. The “current” priority date is then published in the visa bulletin each month by the Department of State. When a priority date is current, it means that beneficiaries with that priority date, or an earlier date, can file for permanent residence. If the priority date is not yet current, the prospective green card holder must wait until the priority date is current to file for permanent residence. This entire process can take years, so it’s important to develop a comprehensive immigration strategy to make sure you remain in status if you plan to remain in the US during this time. Want to check out the current priority dates? Visit the visa bulletin online at, and remember to check it each month (the middle of the month) to see if your date is current! Don’t have a priority date yet? Contact Sumner Immigration Law at or at to set a consultation to create your strategy today!