Every month the U.S. Department of State (DOS) issues the Visa Bulletin. It shows when you can file for Green Card and when you can actually receive Green Card.
Understanding the Visa Bulletin can be confusing, but it is crucial to the Green Card process.
The Visa Bulletin was created because the demand for immigrant visas largely exceeds the supply, meaning that there are much more people applying for Green Card every year than there are available visas issued. Therefore, every month DOS issues the Visa Bulletin to indicate immigrant visas availability.
There are two sections in the Visa Bulletin:
- Section A. Final Action Dates. Based on this chart you can determine whether your immigrant visa petition can be approved right now and Green Card is available or you have to wait for your priority date to become “current”.
- Section B. Dates for Filling. This chart is mostly used by immigrant visa applicants, who reside outside of the U.S. and will be submitting their applications with the National Visa Center (NVC).
Every month the Department of State issues an additional supplement to the Visa Bulletin to clarify which chart should be used for immigrant visa filing.
Both, Section A and Section B, indicate visas availability by category. There are separate tables for family-based Green Card petitions and for employment-based petitions. Each category is divided into subcategories. For example, there are separate subcategories within the family-based category for unmarried adults (age 21 and over) who are children of U.S. citizens (F1 subcategory) and for spouses and unmarried children of green card holders (F2 subcategory), and so on.
In addition to this, the tables contain country-specific columns. There are several countries, including China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines, that experience a significant backlog due to high demand for immigrant visas. Therefore, the wait time for Green Card for citizens of these countries is much longer.
To properly understand the Visa Bulletin, there are a few important terms you need to know.
First and foremost, you need to be familiar with the term “Priority date”. Knowing your priority date is crucial to understanding when you can file for Green Card and when it becomes available. For family-based cases, the priority date is the date your I-130, Petition for Alien Relative was filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can find it on your I-130 Receipt Notice. For employment-based cases, requiring PERM Labor Certification, the priority date is the date your Labor Certification was filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). You can find it on a certified copy of the Labor Certification. For all other employment-based cases, the priority date is the date your I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers was filed with the USCIS and can be found on your I-140 Receipt Notice.
Another important term to know is “Current” or “C”, as it appears on the Visa Bulletin. In the context of the Visa Bulletin, “C” next to a subcategory means that a petition can be filed or approved right now and Green Card is available. Otherwise, there will be a “Cut-off date” posted. The cut-off date should be compared to your priority date. Only petitions with a priority date earlier than the cut-off date indicated on the Visa Bulletin chart can be filed/approved at the moment.
Lastly, sometimes the Visa Bulletin cut-off dates retrograde. “Visa Retrogression” occurs when the cut-off dates move backward, meaning certain categories were “current” for one month, but moved back for the following month. Often, this happens at the end of the government’s fiscal year, as the annual limit for a category or country has been reached. Usually, once a new fiscal year begins and a new supply of visa numbers becomes available, these dates return back to where they used to be before the retrogression. It is important to consider visa retrogression when timing your Green Card application submission. If your application was already submitted and visa retrogression occurred, USCIS will temporarily hold your case until the dates become current again.
The most recent Visa Bulletin is always available on the U.S. DOS website.
Should you have any questions regarding the Visa Bulletin in relation to your immigration case, please contact our office for expert assistance. We are here to guide you through the process and provide you with viable advice. At Root Law Group, we offer free in-office consultations and represent individuals, small businesses, and large multi-national corporations in all aspects of U.S. Immigration. Call us today at (323) 456-7600 and schedule your consultation with our experienced immigration attorneys!