A priority date is the date when an alien initially expresses his or her intent to immigrate to the United States through an appropriate petition. For most employment-based immigration petitions, this is the date that a PERM labor certification application (ETA form 9089) was received by the Department of Labor. For employment-based petitions that do not require labor certification a priority date is the date which an immigrant preference petition was filed (USCIS forms I-140, I-526, and I-360).
The purpose of a Priority Date is to identify when the alien may apply for an Adjustment of Status (I-485) or an immigrant visa through Consular Processing if the alien beneficiary is outside of the U.S. Each month, the State Department's Visa office publishes a table of cutoff dates. The alien may apply for an I-485 provided his/her immigration petition is approved and the alien's priority date is within the established cutoff date for his/her category. For immigrant preference categories with backlogs (such as EB-2 and EB-3) an earlier priority date will mean earlier access to a visa when numbers become available.
If labor certification is required for an immigrant petition, as it is in most EB-2 and all EB-3 cases, the petitioner cannot file the I-140 petition until the DOL approves a PERM labor certification application. The priority date is thus the filing date of the PERM labor certification application with the DOL. The beneficiary will retain this priority date when filing the I-140 petition, provided that the DOL certifies his or her PERM labor certification application. The date that the DOL receives a PERM petition will establish a priority date, but this date will not be useable unless the petition is approved.
For certain kinds of employment based petitions a labor certification is not required, such as for national interest waiver applications and petitions for aliens of extraordinary ability or outstanding researchers/professors. In these kinds of cases, the immigration process starts with the immigrant petition rather than the PERM labor certification application. The priority date is the date the USCIS first receives the immigrant preference petition (Form I-140).
For family-based applicants, a priority date is the date the USCIS first receives the immigrant petition (Form I-130) filed on the alien’s behalf.
PERM labor certification is an extremely complicated and time-sensitive procedure. We recommend that you consult with an experienced and responsible immigration attorney. We have successfully represented many PERM cases. If you would like to contact us, please telephone us at (713) 771-8433 or visit us at one of our six locations. You can also contact us conveniently online by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our attorneys will use their experience, expertise, and teamwork to ensure the highest quality of service.
(Updated 10/1/2012 by AD)
For more information on PERM Labor Certification, please refer to the following links:
PERM General Issues