Since we have received a lot of questions in forum and blog comments about F2A category, we have decided to write a blog post for FB categories. It would also be helpful to EB categories.
This article has special emphasis on F2A category which is expected to be current in coming months and is expected to remain "Current" till the October 2013 Visa Bulletin.
Q. What does "Current" mean?
A. If Visa Bulletin has a "C" besides any category/country, it means that category/country is current. Current means that visa bulletin cutoff date for F2A category is Aug 2013 (instead of Oct 2011). Please see two options below:
(1) If you live within US: You can file I-485 application even if I-130 application is pending.
(2) If you live outside US: You should not file I-485. You will have to wait for
I-130 to be approved. Once it is approved and PD is current, you do not
have to do anything else. NVC will schedule your interview.
For NVC/Consular processing, please click here: http://blog.mygcvisa.com/2013/09/nvc-consular-processing-steps.html
Q. Why is F2A category becoming Current?
A. There has been a large amount of visas wasted in this category in
FY2009, FY 2010 and FY 2012. To prevent this waste, DOS would most
likely make this category as "current" in either August or September VB.
This will help them build a "pipeline" of cases after applicants file
I-485 applications. In FY 2012, over 18,000 visas were wasted in FB category.
Here are more details on how many visas were wasted in F2A category:
Annual approx visas allotted to F2A category by law: 87,934. However actual visas allotted in the last 5 fiscal years was much below 87,934 quota. More details below by fiscal year:
FY 2012: 77,300 (visa wasted: 10,000+ )
FY 2011: 81,728 (visa wasted: 6,000+ )
FY 2010: 60,652 (visa wasted: 27,000+ )
FY 2009: 75,075 (visa wasted: 12,000+)
Source: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/statistics/statistics_1476.html. Select year and then click on heading for V section.
Q. How long would F2A category remain current?
A. It is likely to remain current till Oct or Nov VB.
Once enough demand has been generated, it is likely to retrogress and then continue to move forward slowly. How far it retrogress depends on how many applications are filed in the next few months.
Q. Why are some other FB categories moving slowly?
A. Visa allocation is based on supply and demand. The supply is fixed by law for each FB categories. The demand however can change every month. If the demand is higher in some months, the dates would move slowly (since supply is fixed, though demand is higher). In F2A category, the current demand is low, hence dates are moving faster.
Q. What is difference between I-485 and consular processing?
A. If you are inside US, you can either file I-485 application or go for
consular processing. If you are outside US, you can only go for consular
Note: You can either file I-485 or do consular processing. You cannot typically do both.
Q. Can applicant outside US go for consular processing interview when I-130 is pending?
A. For FB category, currently you have to wait for I-130 to be approved before you can go for consular processing interview. Please see next question.
Q. What are the complete steps for NVC/consular processing?
A. Please see this: http://blog.mygcvisa.com/2013/09/nvc-consular-processing-steps.html
Also please see this article from USCIS: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=62280a5659083210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=62280a5659083210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD
Note: I-130 Processing Data - USCIS Field Office (published on 06/28/13): http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Resources/Reports%20and%20Studies/Immigration%20Forms%20Data/Family-Based/I130_performancedata_fy2013_qtr1.pdf
Q. Can I-485 be filed if I-130 is still pending?
A. Yes, USCIS allows concurrent filing of I-130 and I-485 application. This means that you can file I-130 and I-485 at the same time ONLY if F2A category is current. Since F2A category is generally retrogressed, applicant first file I-130 to establish PD. Once the PD is current they file I-485 application. You can file I-485 application when your PD is current; even if I-130 is still pending. Do not file I-485 application if PD is not current. See: USCIS article on concurrent filing.
Note: Derivatives of US Citizen can concurrently file I-130 and I-485 anytime.
Q. Can applicant file EAD/AP card with I-485?
A. Yes you can file for EAD and AP card with I-485 application. EAD allows you to work for any employer and AP allows you to travel and reenter US while I-485 is pending.
Q. Can applicant travel outside US while I-485 is pending?
A. The safest way to travel outside US while I-485 pending is using Advanced Parole. Other option is to have following visas: H1, H4, L1 and L2. Applicants with these visas can renter US using these visas rather than use AP card. Not all persons who file the I-485 should travel abroad with Advance
Parole even if it has been issued. One who
has been unlawfully present for 180 days or more prior to filing the
I-485 should not travel outside the U.S. while the I-485 is pending or they will be subject to the 3-year or 10-year bar following departure. Always talk to your lawyer before traveling outside US.
Q. How would applicant switch between I-485 and consular processing?
A. The choice to pursue consular processing is generally
made at the I-130 stage and progresses through the National
Visa Center (NVC) once the I-130 petition is approved. One who
initially requests an I-485 process, but later wants to pursue consular
processing, must file an I-824 to notify the NVC of this choice. One who
initially requests consular processing, but later wants to pursue the
I-485, may do so from within the U.S., but there could be a delay in
obtaining the I-485 approval if the file has to be transferred from the
consulate/NVC to the USCIS Service Center
Q. What happens to I-485 application if Visa Bulletin dates retrogressed?
A. USCIS first priority is to process application which are current. If they have time, they will continue to process application which are not current. USCIS will not reject application just because Visa Bulletin dates have retrogressed. USCIS will typically still issue EAD/AP card (if you have submitted those forms).
Q. What are the steps to file I-485 application? What happens after filing I-485 application?
A. Please see this article: http://blog.mygcvisa.com/2013/04/how-to-file-i-485-application.html
Q. Where can applicants see status of their application?
A. Direct Link: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do. You can also sign up for email/sms notification.
Q. When would I-130 and/or I-485 application be approved by USCIS?
A. Each USCIS service center may have a different processing time to process I-130 and I-485 application. Please see the processing time here:
Q. What is the difference between Visa Bulletin date and USCIS service center date?
A. Visa Bulletin date tells you when you can file for I-485 application (PD has to be before the date listed in monthly visa bulletin) or when NVC will call for interview. The service center date (in link above) tells you how long it could take USCIS to process the I-485 application.
Applicant can check USCIS processing time to get an estimate on how long it takes USCIS to process I-130 (and I-485) application.
Visa bulletin is updated monthly. USCIS processing time are updated whenever there is a change in the processing time.
Related article from DHS: http://www.dhs.gov/roundtable-6-demystifying-visa-queues-interagency-discussion-priority-dates
If you have not done it yet, please add your case to the GC tracker. Every case would be helpful. http://www.mygcvisa.com/tracker/
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