Q. When can I file my permanent residence application? My brother, a U.S. citizen, filed a relative petition for me in December 1997. I know that I qualify to interview in the United States, but I’m not clear about when I can file.
-Veronica Stafford, Brooklyn
Q. You may apply now for permanent residence unless you are a national of India, Mexico or the Philippines. Nationals of all other countries in your category - the fourth family preference for the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen - are eligible for permanent residence if their U.S.-citizen sibling petitioned for them before January 1, 1998. Nationals of the other countries and applicants whose petitions were filed January 1, 1998, or later must wait.
I found out that you qualify to immediately file by checking the U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin. The bulletin guides the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in granting permanent residence in the family and employment preference categories. The bulletin tells the agencies which immigrants can get visas in a particular month.
The agencies need the bulletin because the law limits the number of individuals who can immigrate each year in those categories. When more people want visas than are available, a backlog develops. When that happens, we say the category is oversubscribed and the State Department announces a cutoff date. To get permanent residence in an oversubscribed category, an immigrant must have a priority date that is prior to the cutoff date listed in the bulletin.
In a family-based immigration case, an applicant’s priority date is the date the USCIS receives a petition filed for that applicant. In an employment-based case, the priority date is the date the Labor Department receives an application to certify a worker as eligible for permanent residence or, where the law does not require a labor certification, the day the USCIS receives an employment-based petition.
When an applicant’s priority date is before the visa bulletin cutoff date, his or her case is current and he or she can submit an application for adjustment of status if interviewing here or apply for permanent residence at a U.S. consulate abroad.
Sometimes all the visas allocated for a category are used up for a given year. Visas for those applicants are then unavailable, and no more visas are issued in that category until the next fiscal year begins on October 1.
You do not need a special friend at the State Department to see each month’s bulletin. You check it on the Internet at https://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html.
You also can have the Visa Bulletin e-mailed to you by writing email@example.com. In the message part of the e-mail, write Subscribe Visa-Bulletin First name/Last name (example: Subscribe Visa-Bulletin Sally Doe).
Finally, you also can get the information by calling the Visa Bulletin line at 202-663-1541. The State Department issues the bulletin around the 12th of each month.
Note that some family-based immigrants get immigrant visas outside the quota system in the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen category. For immediate relatives, the law provides an unlimited number of visas – they do not have to wait in line. The immediate relative category includes the following relatives of U.S. citizens: spouse; unmarried child younger than 21, parent, where the petitioning U.S. citizen child is 21 or older, and sometimes the widow/widower of a U.S. citizen.
Wife is undocumented
Q. My wife is undocumented and her son is overseas. I am a U.S. citizen. How can I bring my wife’s son to the United States?
- Mr. Issam, New York
A. If your wife’s son was not yet 18 when you married her, you can petition to bring him to the U.S. Immigration law recognizes a parent/child relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild if the marriage creating the relationship takes place before the child turns 18.
Allan Wernick is a lawyer and director of the City University of New York Citizenship and Immigration Project. He is the author of “U.S. Immigration and Citizenship - Your Complete Guide, Revised 4th Edition.” Send questions and comments to Allan Wernick, Daily News, 450 West 33rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10001. Professor Wernick’s web site is www.allanwernick.com.
Allan Wernick’s Immigration column is reprinted from the Thursday, October 16 edition of the New York Daily News.