Upon approval of an immigrant petition, the applicant will be eligible to apply for permanent residence at a U.S. consulate abroad or at a local CIS office once the visa number is “current”. In this final phase, emphasis will be based on the individual’s overall qualifications to immigrate to the U.S., such as, whether the applicant has a criminal record, or a contagious disease, has accrued unlawful presence in the U.S., or worked without authorization, etc.
Currently, a quota system exists, which is determined by the number of immigrant visas the State Department allocated under various employment-based and family “preference” categories. The applicant’s place in line in the quota system is “reserved” as of the date the DOL accepts the initial LC application for employment-based applicants and the day of the petition for family based applicants. This is called the “priority date” which can be tracked each month from the State Department Visa Bulletin published releases. The quota varies depending upon the preference category and country of the individual’s citizenship.
During this entire process, the sponsored individual and his/her family, residing in the U.S., should maintain their valid nonimmigrant (temporary) status. However, the applicant (as well as his/her dependents) are eligible to apply for work authorization upon filing for adjustment of status in the U.S.