The Department of State and USCIS announced on September 9th, 2015 that they are implementing new procedures to allow people who are stuck in the visa backlogs to start their immigrant visa paperwork. Most notably, there are now two priority dates for each category in the visa bulletin.
The first date listed is the final action date. This provides a rough idea of what dates USCIS will be processing.
The second date is a filing date. This is the newly released date that determines when an individual can file the I-485 or adjustment application. Many categories such as EB-2 and EB-3 for India and China jumped ahead several months or years.
By filing an application for adjustment of status, these applicants can obtain employment authorization and advance parole. It will also mean that individuals with employment based petitions are eligible for porting to a new employer under AC-21. In other words once the I-485 has been on file for 180 days, the beneficiary can move to a new employer if the position is in the same or similar occupation, without having to go through the labor certification and I-140 process again!
This is a welcome change that benefits thousand of individuals stuck in the visa backlog.