We often provide updates on the Visa Bulletin, so that our clients can estimate when a visa number may be available to obtain a green card. We understand the whole concept of the Visa Bulletin can be a little tricky. We get it!  Below you’ll find an explanation of the basics.

What is the Visa Bulletin?

The Department of State publishes immigrant visa availability information in a monthly Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin establishes cutoff dates for filing of adjustment of status applications or immigrant visa applications. The cutoff dates are determined based on predictions of immigrant visa demand.

The Visa Bulletin is a tool for you and the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government can only give out a limited number of Green Cards (or Immigrant Visas) every year: 226,000 for Family-Based immigrants and 140,000 for Employment- Based immigrants. The law limits how many visas can be used by applicants from each country and each category. However, there may be additional visas in some years, because some unused visa numbers from the prior year can get carried over to the next year. The U.S. Government uses the Visa Bulletin to keep track of all these visa numbers and to give you a tool that you can use to tell you when the government will accept your application and when your case can be approved.

You use the Visa Bulletin to understand what happens with the last stage of the Green Card process whether you are going the path of filing a Form I-485 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Consular Processing through a consulate to obtain an Immigrant Visa.

The Visa Bulletin contains two different charts, the Application Final Action Dates and Dates for Filing Applications. When USCIS determines there are immigrant visas available for the filing of additional adjustment of status applications, the Dates for Filing Applications chart may be used to determine when to file an adjustment of status application with USCIS. Otherwise, adjustment of status applicants must use the Application Final Action Date charts for filing.

Terms You Should Know How to Use

  • Priority Date: The “Received Date” of Form I-130 or I-140 Immigrant Petition at USCIS. (One exception is if your I-140 is based on a Labor Certification, then it’s the Labor Certification filing date.)
  • Cutoff Date: The date printed in the boxes appearing in Visa Bulletin charts, which are not “Current.”
  • Current: Your Priority Date is a date earlier than the date printed in a box you find in a chart on the Visa Bulletin. If this happens, then (1) you file a Form I-485 Adjustment of Status application to USCIS, (2) USCIS can approve a pending Form I-485, or (3) a Consulate can issue your Green Card to you. “C:” This means all Priority Dates are Current.
  • “Dates for Filing” Chart: If your Priority Date is earlier than the Cutoff Date in this chart, then you can gather and submit required documents to Department of State’s National Visa Center. The NVC will tell you when you can begin submitting documents. Alternatively, you may be able to file Form I-485 with USCIS.
  • “Final Action Dates” Chart: If your Priority Date is earlier than the Cutoff Date in this chart (1) can file an I-485 Application to USCIS, (2) USCIS can approve a pending Form I-485 or (3) a Consulate can issue your Green Card to you.
  • Visa Retrogression: This is when a priority date was Current in one month, but is no longer Current in the future month

How Does the Visa Bulletin Work for Me?

In the Visa Bulletin, you will see the top row listing countries. The left-hand column lists visa categories, like F1 or EB2. You take your Priority Date and look in the box under your Country of Birth and across for your visa category. If the date in the box is after your priority date, then you may be able to file your case.

Example: India Visa Number Availability

For the month of November 2021, USCIS has determined that the Dates for Filing Applications chart should be used for filing applications for adjustment of status with USCIS.

EB-3 India Dates for Filing: Only applicants born in India with priority dates earlier than January 22, 2012, may file adjustment of status applications during the month of November 2021.

EB-3 India Final Action Dates: During the month of November 2021, USCIS will only approve adjustment applications, and DOS will only issue immigrant visas, for Indian EB-3 applicants with priority dates earlier than January 15, 2012.

Of course, Dayzad Law tracks visa number availability closely for each of our clients and advises when action is necessary.  Nevertheless, we hope this explanation is helpful for the curious!

Courtesy of American Immigration Lawyers Association