Green Card Priority Date: What It Means


The green card process can be a long and tedious one. Whether you’re filing for one for a spouse, child, or for yourself, it’s important to understand the process.  It can take years to complete this process, that’s why you need to know all the relevant details going into it. So, what is a priority date for a green card? How do I know what mine is? This and more will be addressed so that you feel as comfortable as possible moving forward with the green card process.

What is a 1-130? 

First, before we get to the priority date, we must know what an I-130 petition is. An I-130, also known as a “Petition for Alien Relative” is a form that is submitted by an American citizen on behalf of a relative or spouse to be permitted to immigrate. It is the form you will need to submit on your priority date, but more on that later. 

This form establishes a relationship between the person wanting to immigrate and the person submitting the form. It is one of the beginning steps in the immigration process to the U.S. you must file a new form for every relative you are advocating for. 

The Green Card Priority Date

The green card priority date is the date on which you submit your I-130 petition. This date is sort of like the day you get put into the queue for processing. Your priority date will be on your I-797, which is the form you will be sent that approves your I-130. So, why is this date so relevant? 

This date is so important because it establishes you in the family visa preferences line, which will later determine when exactly you can immigrate. But what is the timeline of everything? What other important dates are there to keep track of?

The Process

Applying for a green card is, as previously mentioned, quite the process. It can take up to over a year for your green card process to be complete. It’s important to fill in everything properly and at the correct times for fewer bumps in the road. From the time you begin the process to when you’re finally holding the card in your hands, it can take anywhere from 7 to 33 months. 

On the topic of the process overall, let’s take a look at the timeline of events for applying for a green card in the U.S. First, you must be of one of the qualifying categories. The most popular qualification is if you are a spouse or relative of a U.S. citizen writing your I-130. Another way is through your employment if you are required to move to the U.S. for work. Another main category of green card candidates is refugees or crime victims seeking solace in America.

Once you have determined that you qualify for one of these categories or others not mentioned, you can begin the process. The process begins by having your U.S. relative/partner write and submit your I-130. This will be submitted on your priority date, as discussed earlier.

Then, if you’re applying for a family-based visa from within the country, you will then go ahead and submit an Application for Adjustment of Status, or an I-485. This is the actual document that is sent by a person currently in the United States applying for lawful permanent residence status. This is an important step, as it’s the official application for your U.S. citizenship. 

You must only apply for the I-485 if the person requesting citizenship is currently in the United States. If they are not currently in the U.S., you would apply for an Immigrant Visa Application, aka a DS-260. 

DS-260 vs I-485

There are some differences between these two forms. For example, the I-485 is only used when submitting the application for U.S. status from within the country, the DS-260 is used when the opposite is true. 

The DS-260 is used to submit information to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC is responsible for transferring your information from your current country of residence to the U.S. This leads to some processing time. In the case that you would be submitting an I-485 instead, the process is slightly different. 

When you submit your I-485, the date that it is approved becomes your “date of adjustment” and this will therefore determine how soon you will have citizenship status. For the DS-260, it can take just a few months to process and then you’re on your way to the final steps of applying for citizenship.

In regards to the I-485, you will most likely wait much longer. The wait times for processing are anywhere from 8 to 14 months. However, this can sometimes be the quicker way to do things.

Once the relevant forms are submitted and processed, it won’t be long before you become a full U.S citizen. Depending on your situation, there will be different experiences, but the final result is all the same.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re in the U.S. trying to submit your visa application or you’re a faraway immigrant looking to enter the country, the process of obtaining a green card can be a difficult and confusing journey. It is important to remember the relevant dates such as your priority date, and always make sure things are on time.

If you stick to this advice and stay on track with the right dates and forms, you will be well on your way to green card status. This process isn’t easy, but knowing the facts and the relevant information can help for a smoother process. Regardless of where you are in your journey, remember that the green card priority date is an important one. Always submit applications in time and correctly filled in. 

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a very exciting thing; however, the green card process can be long and dull. But when you know the significant dates such as the priority date and your date of adjustment, it becomes a whole lot simpler.