How Long Before My Priority Date Is Current Will I Get a Letter Telling Me?

Learn how to track your Priority Date's progress and ensure that you are being contacted by the U.S. government as soon as you're eligible to continue your application for a U.S. immigrant visa.

By , J.D. · Tulane University Law School

Let's say you are a foreign national who has been waiting overseas for a U.S. immigrant visa for a long time, because you are in a so-called "preference category," which has annual limits on available visas and thus a waiting list. The waiting list is based on applicants' "Priority Date" (that is, the date the U.S. petitioning family member or employer first filed a visa petition or labor certification request on your behalf). You're finally noticing in recent months' State Department Visa Bulletins that your Priority Date is getting closer to the cutoff date listed. What do you do next? Do you need to wait to be notified by the U.S. government that it's time to proceed with your application for an immigrant visa and lawful permanent residence (also known as a green card)?

You Must Wait to Be Notified by the U.S. Government

Yes, even with a current Priority Date, overseas residents need to wait to be notified by the U.S. government before taking the next step toward applying for an immigrant visa and U.S. lawful permanent residence.

Note that the scenario is different than for people already living in the United States and planning to apply for their residence using the procedure known as "Adjustment of Status." They can and should submit their application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as soon as they have a current Priority Date.

Expect a Welcome Letter From the National Visa Center

You and your petitioner (the U.S. employer or relative who is sponsoring you) will receive a welcome letter or email from the National Visa Center (NVC) when your Priority Date becomes current in the application filing chart, or is likely to become current within the next year. The welcome letter will give you your case identification number and invoice number, both of which you will need in order to go online to the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to pay your fees and fill out the visa application form. After doing so, you will be scheduled for a consular interview, at which your visa application will be reviewed and hopefully approved.

Check the State Department's Visa Bulletin Regularly

Just in case you do not receive this welcome letter, you should check the application date filing chart in the State Department's Visa Bulletin each month (or subscribe to their monthly emails) to stay informed about whether the NVC is currently accepting applications for cases with your Priority Date or earlier ones.

If your date is current (the cut-off date in your preference category in the application filing date chart is a later date than your priority date or simply says "C" for "current") but you have not yet received the welcome letter from the NVC, send a message through the NVC's public inquiry page.

Keep Your Address Up to Date in the NVC Files

You should also make sure that the NVC is aware of you and your family-member or employer petitioner's current addresses and that NVC has an email address on file for you, as much of the process can be completed via email. If you need to add, update, or change your contact information, you can reach by filling out its public inquiry form.

Take Action Quickly Once Your Priority Date Is Current

Once your Priority Date becomes current or you have received the welcome letter from the NVC, don't let too much time go by before you take action. You will have one year in which to contact the NVC. If you wait longer than that, the U.S. government will assume you are no longer interested in getting an immigrant visa to the United States and move on to the next applications in line.

For more about the waitlist and checking the Visa Bulletin, see How Long Is the Wait for Your Priority Date to Become Current?

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