Final Action Date vs Filing Date – Things You Should Know

Updated on January 7, 2024

At a Glance

  • Green card and immigrant visa counts are reported by the Visa Office of the U.S. Department of State.
  • The Visa Office receives monthly reports on total immigrant visa applicants globally, including pending adjustment of status applications.
  • Monthly allotments for available green card numbers are based on factors like pending applications, qualified visa applicants, and historical counts.
  • The Visa Bulletin contains Final Action Dates (when visas are available for issuance) and Dates for Filing (when applicants can submit green card applications).

The Visa Bulletin is released by the U.S. Department of State every month. This bulletin reveals how many green cards are available for each category and also shows priority dates. On that bulletin, people can see two types of dates: filing date charts and final action date charts. But what is the difference between them?

In this post, we will take a look at the final action date vs filing date and analyze their differences. Let’s get started!

How Are Green Card and Immigrant Visas Counts Reported?

Green card reporting is taken care of by the Visa Office (VO) – part of the U.S. Department of State (DOS). The reports including the total number of immigrant visa applicants are sent to the Visa Office every month. Concurrently, these reports are obtained from the U.S. consulates and Embassies from all over the world.

Not only that, but they also receive the pending adjustment of status application number from the USCIS. The entire prediction process is quite difficult, so many people may not understand it.

Basically, October is when the fiscal year starts, and that is also when the number of total annual available Green Card numbers are divided by the Visa Office into monthly allotments. These will predict how many Green Cards will be available for the following months until the fiscal year ends. It will all be based on the:

  • Pending Adjustment of Status applicants count that the USCIS sends
  • Qualified Immigrant Visa Applicants count that the U.S. Consulates send
  • Historical counts of Abandonments, Denials, and withdrawals

The priority dates will keep changing depending on how the numbers of the three counts listed above vary.

Furthermore, the Visa Office tends to aggregate the high-level Categories’ numbers for reporting and prediction, including EB-1, F1, and F2A. Also, it doesn’t provide any priority dates under the sub-categories level.

All of the high-level categories usually have several sub-categories that are given Green Card Category Codes to identify, including IR1, E12, E11, and others.

Difference Between “Final Action Dates” & “Dates for Filing”?

Final Action Dates and Dates for Filing are two different things, but what exactly are the differences between them?

What Are “Final Action Dates”?

“Final Action Dates” shows the dates when a number of immigrant visas will be available for foreign nationals who have a current priority date during that month. When the number of immigrant visas is finally available, the foreign national can reach one of the important green card process steps where their physical visa can be finally issued. This is what makes the date so important.

Unless the priority date of the applicant is earlier than the visa bulletin’s listed Final Action Date, no green card can be issued.

What Are “Dates for Filing”?

Dates for Filing refers to the earliest dates that a green card applicant may apply for their green card. The National Visa Center (NVC) uses these dates to let green card applicants know that they can finally start getting qualified documentarily.

Generally, the dates are 8 to 12 months before the expected Final Action Dates. Also, they enable the applicants to submit their important documents and their permanent residence application before the government can approve it.

As such, people who are stuck in the backlog have the opportunity to apply for work authorization and get it much sooner.

What’s the Difference?

A few differences can be seen between the Dates for Filing and Final Action Dates.

For instance, Dates for Filing are used for early preparation by USCIS or NVC to ensure that there are enough applications waiting in the queue for a certain fiscal year. Meanwhile, Final Action Dates show when there are actual available green card numbers for a certain category and country.

Usually, Dates for Filing are used during the fiscal year’s first few months, such as October and November. This makes it possible to have more applications ready in the queue to meet the whole year’s demand.

Final Action Dates are used most commonly for filing applications for adjustment of status with the USCIS during the remainder of the year after the passing of the first months.

When the dates for filing show as “C” or “Current”, it means that the foreigner doesn’t have to wait anymore to apply for a visa interview at the U.S. consulate in their country for the immigrant visa. They can also file applications for green cards with USCIS without having to wait.

With Final Action Dates, when they show as “C” or “Current”, it means that there isn’t any wait time in the queue for green cards. Everyone from that specific country and category can file for their green card and enjoy quick processing.

“Dates for Filing” in Visa Bulletin Explained

In the Visa Bulletin, the “Dates for Filing” or “Dates for Filing Application” refer to the earliest dates when people who apply for Green Cards are finally allowed to apply for their immigrant visa or green card.

Most of the time, the NVC uses the dates for filing to let immigrant visa applicants know that they should get ready to submit the relevant documentation for their interviews at the U.S. Consulates. The USCIS may also use the dates of filing to ask green card applicants in the U.S. to submit their Adjustment of Status applications.

NVC, Applicants Outside of U.S.

The NVC receives the green card applications after the USCIS approves them. Applicants are then notified by the NVC to start submitting the documents, but the NVC also uses the Dates for Filing Numbers to work with them and help them get ready for their interview.

Also, the NVC will tell applicants that their application is “Documentarily complete”. People with this status are the ones that are reported to the Visa Office by the consulates for predictions for Visa numbers.

USCIS, Applicants Inside U.S.

When applicants in the U.S. get a current priority date, the USCIS allows them to apply for an adjustment of status for a Green Card. The USCIS also forecasts the number of applications for green cards they need to meet the numerical limits at the end of the fiscal year.

If there are not enough applications to meet this numerical limit, the applicants will be asked to submit their adjustment of status applications using “Dates for Filing”. People can find out from www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo which dates they should use to submit applications for adjustment of status. They are asked by the USCIS to use the Dates for Filing in the first months of that current fiscal year.

“Final Action Dates” in the Visa Bulletin Explained

“Final Action Dates” or “Application Final Action Dates” refer to the dates when the green card numbers will be available for a particular country and category.

NVC, U.S. Consulates

Green card applicants will be informed by the NVC when they will get current priority dates based on the Visa Bulletin’s “Final Action Dates”. Also, they will help schedule interviews for immigrant visas based on the final action dates by working with the U.S. consulates.

USCIS Usage

Final action dates are used by the USCIS as default priority dates to ask applicants for green cards to apply for an Adjustment of status. Any exceptions for a certain month will be mentioned in the Visa Bulletin and specified to use “filing dates”. Also, Visa Bulletins after the first few months of the USCIS fiscal year will tell everyone to use final action dates.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the Final Action Date in the context of U.S. immigration?

The Final Action Date, often referred to in the U.S. State Department’s Visa Bulletin, is the date when a green card or immigrant visa can actually be issued. This date indicates when the applicant’s priority date becomes current, meaning their application can be finalized and a visa granted.

What is the Filing Date in U.S. immigration?

The Filing Date, also found in the Visa Bulletin, is the date when an individual can start the application process for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. It signifies when applicants can submit their initial paperwork, even though a visa or green card cannot be issued until the Final Action Date becomes current.

How do Final Action Dates and Filing Dates affect immigrant visa applicants?

  1. Final Action Date: Applicants must wait for this date to become current before their visas can be issued.
  2. Filing Date: Applicants can begin submitting initial applications and paperwork, which allows for earlier processing but does not guarantee an immediate visa issuance.

Why are there two different dates in the Visa Bulletin?

The two dates in the Visa Bulletin allow for a more efficient processing system. The Filing Date lets applicants start their paperwork early, reducing wait times after the Final Action Date becomes current.

How often are Final Action Dates and Filing Dates updated?

The U.S. State Department updates the Final Action Dates and Filing Dates monthly in the Visa Bulletin.

Can the Filing Date and Final Action Date be the same?

Yes, in some cases, the Filing Date and Final Action Date can be the same, particularly if there is a high availability of visas in a particular category.

What happens if my priority date is before the Final Action Date?

If your priority date is before the Final Action Date listed in the Visa Bulletin for your visa category, you are eligible to receive your visa or adjust your status.

How can I find out my priority date?

Your priority date is generally the date when your immigrant visa petition (filed by your employer or family member) was received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Does the Final Action Date affect all types of visas?

The Final Action Date primarily affects immigrant visas (green cards), not non-immigrant visas like tourist, student, or work visas.

What should I do if my priority date is not current according to the Filing and Final Action Dates?

If your priority date is not current, you need to wait until it becomes current under either the Filing Date or the Final Action Date, depending on what action you intend to take (filing paperwork or receiving a visa).

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Final Thoughts

Final Action Dates and Filing Dates are not the same, and you must know the differences if you are a green card applicant. We hope this post was helpful in this regard so you can have a smooth application process.

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