This post is part of a series about what to do while your Priority Date is retrogressed, once you have received your I-140 Approval Notice from USCIS. It applies to cases which will be processed through US Consulates, and not to Applications to Adjust Status filed in the US.

We have been receiving a lot of questions from people who have been separated from their families by the recent retrogression of the EB-3 Philippines cut-off date.

Most of them have encountered this problem because the principal green card recipient has traveled to the US, either with plans for family to come later, or because some problem has arisen in the processing of a family member’s case at the consulate and the principle applicant’s case has been approved but the family members have not.

Unfortunately, during the gap between when the principal applicant is coming to the US and the family members are supposed to come, the cut-off date has been retrogressed and the family members will now no longer be able to complete processing of their cases until the cut-off date moves forward and their priority dates are current again.

As we have discussed previously, we have no clue as to when the EB-3 Philippines cut-off date will move forward again but we wouldn’t be surprised if Priority Dates in the 2013 and 2014 range might end up having to wait a while.

Do these people have any other options to bring family members to the US? The answer to that question depends on how long the cut-off date is going to take to become current again, but the technical answer is that they do have an option.

Permanent Residents are eligible to file immigrant petitions on behalf of their spouses and children and unmarried sons and daughters by filing an immigrant petition with USCIS. These people are placed into the family sponsored preference categories, which have priority dates that function in the same way as I-140 Priority Dates, with their own separate cut-off dates.

Spouses and children of permanent residents are placed in the F-2A Category. Unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 years of age or older are placed in the F-2B Category. The June 2015 Visa Bulletin indicates that the cut-off date for F-2A Philippines is currently at October 1, 2013, and the cut-off date for F-2B is currently at May 1, 2004. This means that, on paper, it would appear that the cut-off date for spouses and minor children of permanent residence is a little less than a year and three quarters behind.

The process for filing such an application is to file an I-130 Immigrant Petition with USCIS. Once that’s approved, the petition is forwarded to the NVC and once the priority date is current, fee bills are issued and the case is processed exactly the same way as regular I-140 cases are processed.

Filing an I-130 petition costs a fairly significant amount of money and is probably not something that should be undertaken unless you think that there’s no way that your dependent family cases are going to be processed before a case that’s filed in an F-2A Category. F-2B is probably not a realistic option at all, given how far that category is backed up.

If you have a priority date that’s 2005, 2006, or 2007 and is currently retrogressed I don’t think there is a need to file an F-2A Immigrant Petition for your spouse and children. I don’t believe that the cutoff date for those years is going to remain retrogressed for the couple of years that it would take for an Immigrant Petition to be processed for them.

If you believe that your I-140 Priority Date may take more than two years to become current again, you might want to consider filing an I-130 on behalf of your family members who are stuck in the Philippines. If you are a person that has a date that’s in 2013 or 2014, you may want to think more seriously about this. We simply do not know how long this retrogression is going to last, and it might be worth spending the money to file these petitions in order to have them as a back-up in case the date doesn’t move forward to 2013 or 2014 any time soon.

We strongly suggest that before making any decision you talk with an attorney and discuss all the facts of your case and your family situation before making a final decision.