Things You Should Know About The Visa Bulletin
The visa bulletin lists dates when the Department of State expects to issue immigrant visas. The visa bulletin determines which sponsors can apply for permanent residence (green card) through employment or family-based immigration. The visa bulletin works because the Department of State updates it monthly to reflect current processing times and available visas. Here are some common questions about this process:
What is the visa bulletin?
The visa bulletin is a monthly publication by the U.S. Department of State that contains information about which countries’ applicants are eligible for immigrant visas and in what category. It also includes data about how many people have been granted permanent residence (green cards) in each category.
A visa bulletin is thus an essential tool for anyone who wants to get married and live permanently in the United States (whether as an applicant or sponsor), and it’s crucial for immigration attorneys when we advise clients on their options moving forward.
When is the visa bulletin updated?
In the middle of the last month is the regular update of the visa bulletin. For instance, in Mid-February, they will publish the chart for March. The actual date can vary slightly due to time zone differences and daylight saving time rules.
Visa Bulletin information is available online at Adjustment of Status Filing Charts from the Visa Bulletin | USCIS.
How can I track the date of filing for my preference category?
Check this website as soon as possible to see if your priority dates have become current. However, please only wait until Friday, as there may be minor delays in posting new data due to holidays or other circumstances beyond our control.
How do you know if your application is on hold because of the per-country limit or a retrogression?
If you are in a category with a per-country limit and your priority date is before the cutoff date for that category, then you are in a queue. The only exception is if USCIS adjusts its visa bulletin tables (which rarely happens).
Suppose your priority date is after the cutoff date, but your case has no forward movement due to retrogression. In that case, it means that people with earlier priority dates have been issued visas from their country of chargeability or reached their maximum allocation of immigrant visas for that fiscal year. It may also happen if USCIS adjusts its visa bulletin tables at some point during the year (which does happen sometimes).
What are the categories in the bulletin?
Family-based, employment-based, and diversity visas are the visa Bulletin categories.
Family-based visas include immediate relatives of U.S. citizens’ spouses, children under 21, parents of U.S. citizens over 21, and other family members such as unmarried siblings or adult children. U.S. citizen petitioner (the person petitioning for entry) must sponsor all applicants in this category.
Employment-based visas are issued based on the employer’s ability to demonstrate labor needs in the United States and job offers that meet specific wage requirements set by Congress each year through legislation known as the “H1B Cap.” The cap applies only to those seeking employment through an H1B visa. There’s no limit on how many times someone can use one or whether they have already received one before applying again later if they meet all other requirements, such as having enough money saved up for expenses during travel time, etc. Diversity Visas are distributed annually through a randomized computer drawing open only once yearly. It allows 50 percent more applicants than available slots each year so long as they qualify under criteria set forth by USCIS guidelines regarding age/education level requirements.
Why should I be aware of country quotas and per-country limits?
Because you need to be aware of country quotas and per-country limits, you must understand how they work.
- If your priority date is current, you can file in any preference category (assuming you have an eligible relationship). For example: if your priority date is January 2021, and there are still cases pending from December 2019 or earlier in the same category as yours (e.g., EB-1), then filing with USCIS is possible until those cases after the adjudication by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).
- If your priority date is not current, but there are no more than four months left before it becomes current again (i.e., October 1). Filing with USCIS is also possible until those four months pass without another case being processed ahead of yours by either USCIS or the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office (CA/VO). If CA/VO finishes processing all applications submitted, examining any applications submitted after that will be done in the following fiscal year begins. Regardless of how far back their initial priority dates fall, there will need to be more time left during this fiscal year’s last quarter.
When does a preference category reach “current” status?
The Date for Filing is the date on which the petition filing happens. For example, if you file a family-based preference petition for your brother on February 1, 2021, and he was approved in September 2022, his priority date will be February 1, 2021 (the day you filed).
For family-based visas, when an applicant’s priority date becomes current depends on whether they are applying based on the following:
- A relative who has been granted permanent residence status in one of two ways, through adjustment of status or consular processing abroad, is known as “consular processing.” In general terms: if someone previously obtained their green card through adjustment of status or consular processing abroad (or both), then generally speaking, that person’s foreign spouse and children can apply for immigrant visas immediately after USCIS announces them being ready for review by consulates around the world; however if someone obtained their green card through naturalization after living permanently outside U.S., then generally speaking their spouse and children must wait until their priority dates become current before applying for their immigrant visas at a U.S consulate abroad.
Can I file in any preference category regardless of when it reaches “current” status?
The short answer is no. If you are eligible to file in a particular category, but that category has not yet reached “current” status, then you cannot use it. The only exception is if you depend on someone waiting for an employment-based green card (EB). In that case, you can still file under the EB classification even if it’s not current because the filing date of your spouse or parent’s petition will determine your priority date.
Ultimately, all you can do is ensure that your application is correctly prepared with all supporting documents to keep your case in the current month or prior, depending on your preference. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the visa bulletin and its importance in your immigration journey. We know that it can be confusing, but the more you know about the system, the better prepared you’ll be for when your case is ready to be filed. If you have any questions about our services or anything related to visas, feel free to reach out OnlineVisas Delivers Dream!