The priority date for a United States immigrant visa is the date the petition was filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; when a labor certification is required, the date is when it was accepted by the Department of Labor, notes the Department of Homeland Security. Those who have an approved petition for a U.S. visa can find it on Form I-797, Notice of Action. The priority date can also be checked online at the U.S. Department of State website.
As of 2015, immigrant visas to the U.S. are limited to a minimum of 226,000 per year for family-sponsored visas and a minimum of 140,000 per year for employer-sponsored visas, notes the Department of Homeland Security. The government has also designated a certain percentage of visas to each country. Since the number of applications is typically more than the number of visas available, the Department of State establishes numbers based on priority date and visa category. The priority date establishes a person's place in line for a visa. Once the date becomes current, the person can apply for an immigrant visa.
Prospective immigrants can check the current priority date by going to the "Immigrant Visa Process" page on the Department of State's website. Choose the visa bulletin to look up the cut-off date. Then, enter the country of birth or chargeability and the immigrant visa category. Click "Look up" to check the priority date.