Legal Guide

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Green Card Priority Dates

If you applied for an American green card, you probably did not get it immediately. Instead, you got a date called a “priority date.” Many places in the United States have customer service desks that ask you to “take a number.” The priority date is kind of like that. The government can only issue so many green cards for some categories, so they must wait.

But now that you know the answer to “what is a priority date for green card?”, you probably have more questions. Here are 4 things you probably didn’t know about your priority date.

Your Country of Origin Affects Your Priority Date

If you look up the different brackets of priority dates, called “preference categories,” you will notice that they have a few commonalities. But wait—why do Asian immigrants get a different bracket from other immigration groups?

Rather than being an act of discrimination, this happens because so many people want to move from heavily-populated countries like China and India to America. Since there are more people “in line,” the numbering is different.

Your Priority Date Depends on Your Employment

When you apply to get a green card, you may have to fill out form I-140. You can declare your preference on this form. Overall, however, people with employment plans have priority. File this form within 180 days of the Department of Labor approving your labor certification to retain your spot.

And if you are an entrepreneur, you are in another category entirely! All entrepreneurs are listed under preference 5, so fill out form I-526 when applying for your green card.

There Are Ways to Move Your Priority Date Up

If you think you might fall into more than one category, there is a chance you may be able to change your preference group. Ask your visa lawyer or immigration attorney about possibly changing your category, and make sure your employer has given you the best priority date you can get.

Your Priority Date Can Move Backward

If you check your priority date on Visa Bulletin, you may have noticed that it can move backward as well. How and why is this possible? It’s called visa retrogression, and it happens when more people apply for visas in a given category than are available.

You should wait for your priority to say “C” before worrying. But just in case your priority date decides to bend time, check Visa Bulletin often. You don’t want to miss your chance!


Instead of being a simple case of “take a number and wait in line,” green card priority dates are a mess of categories and nuances. You don’t want to miss your priority date if it moves backward, so check Visa Bulletin often for updates on your category. But the most important part of changing your priority date is knowing what category you fall into. Employees, entrepreneurs, and families of those people all have different green card categories. It’s a mess! But if you want to sort things out, you may want an immigration lawyer.

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