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  • Writer's picturePatrick Kurowski

Frequently Asked Questions About the Visa Bulletin

The visa bulletin is a monthly publication of the United States Department of State that provides information on the availability of immigration visas for individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States. It includes the current "priority dates" for reach category of immigration visa, which are the dates on which visas become available to application for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. It is important to note that the availability of visas can vary significantly, from month to month, and it is not uncommon for there to be long waiting periods for certain visa categories.

Answering Frequently Asked Questions About the Visa Bulletin

Q: What is a visa bulletin?

A: The visa bulletin is a chart released online each month by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and USCIS. It is how the U.S. government informs those with an approved family (Form I-130) or employment-based immigration petition (Form I-140) when they are eligible to submit their application for a green card.

Q: What is a priority date?

A: A priority date is the day on which an alien applied for an immigrant visa in order to immigrate to the United States. For family-based applicants, this is the date on which the USCIS received the alien's immigrant petition (Form I-130). For employment-based applicants, this is the day the DOL receives the PERM (an application for labor certification), or if no labor certification is required, the date the immigrant preference petition (Form Ii-140) was filed.

Q: Why aren't the categories always current?

A: Each category has a limited number of visas available each year. There are also country-specific restrictions. Every year, there are more green card applicants with approved family or employment-based applications than available visas - demand is significantly greater than supply. This causes a backlog and a long line of applicants waiting for an open visa. The larger the demand surpasses supply, the longer the line and the backlog.

Q: What information do I need to determine whether my priority date is current?

A: When checking the visa bulletin, you will need to know the category, the country where the primary applicant was born and the priority date.

Q: How do I use this information to tell if my date is current?

A: Scroll down the chart until you find the box corresponding to your category and country. If the box is marked with a "C," it means that the category is current and that applications can be submitted regardless of the applicant's priority date. If a date is listed in the box, it means that only applicants with a priority date prior to the listed date can file their green card application.

Q: How does the DOS determine how far forward to move each category each month?

A: Congress determines the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States for each category and country by allocating the number of immigrant visas. This determination affects the number of visas available for all of the family-based and employment-based immigration categories and sets the quota. Based on the number set by Congress, the Department of State determines the cut-off dates in order to fairly distribute the visas over all the categories.

Q: What is the difference between the “Final Action” charts and the “Dates for Filing” chart?

A: The final action chart indicates when a permanent resident card may be issued. However, because it takes a while for permanent resident card applications to be processed, applications can be filed in advance of this “final action date” using the “Dates for Filing” chart.

Q: Where can I find the visa bulletin?

A: You can access the bulletin on the State Department website.

About SG Legal Group: Your Immigration Attorneys

Every day, immigrants in the United States deal with immigration circumstances that are very complex to handle without an in-depth understanding of the immigration laws. At SG Legal Group, we keep families together by reuniting U.S. citizens and residents with their relatives who live in different countries; our clear advice provides an incentive for foreign investment in the U.S. economy; we use smart strategies to connect U.S. employers with valuable employees from all over the world.

Our immigration lawyers in Towson, MD are equipped to handle even the most complex immigration matters. Our first goal is to get to know you and your unique circumstances so we can help determine the best immigration options for you. To get a better understanding of your situation, please schedule an immigration consultation with one of our immigration lawyers in Towson.

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