No matter what avenue you take towards permanent resident status (“green card”), whether it is family-based petition, employment-based petition, or diversity visa based, the priority date of your petition determines the order of visa availability for each particular category.
Priority Dates for Family-Based Petitions
For family based petitions, the priority date is established when the I-130 form (Petition for Alien Relative) is filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If an I-130 petition is denied because of ineligibility and then later resubmitted when eligible, the priority date is established at the time of resubmission of the petition. Matter of Carbajal, 20 I&N Dec. 461 (BIA 1992).
Priority Dates for Employment-Based Petitions
For employment-based immigration petitions, the priority date is set either on the date that a labor certification is filed (EB-2 and EB-3 categories require labor certification); or for categories that do not need a labor certification (EB-1, EB-4, and EB-5) on the date that the preference petition if filed with the USCIS.
Transferring priority dates from a prior employment-based petition to a subsequent new employment based petition
Employment-based priority dates in the first three preference categories (EB-1, EB-2, and EB3) are transferable within those categories. For instance, if one files an EB-3 based labor certification and has an approved I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) for that category, that individual can subsequently file a labor certification in the EB-2 category and request that the priority date from the EB-3 petition be retained when filing the I-140 for the EB-2 petition. However, it is important to note that priority dates are not transferable from EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 cases to any EB-5, EB-5, and family based petitions.
Priority dates for derivative beneficiaries (Spouses/Children)
Spouses and children of the primary beneficiary of both employment-based and family-based petitions are assigned the same priority date as the primary beneficiary as long as the marriage still exists and the children are under the age of 21 pursuant to the Child Status Protection Act. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, the child of a person who marries a U.S. Citizen must be the beneficiary of a separate petition by the parent beneficiary or, where applicable, the petitioning step-parent.