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Behind the Numbers: Understanding the Visa Bulletin and Your Path to a Green Card.

Posted by Ann Badmus | Mar 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

If you're a foreign national seeking a green card in the United States, you've likely heard of the Visa Bulletin. This monthly publication from the U.S. Department of State is a critical resource for those navigating the complex immigration process, as it provides important information on visa availability and waiting times.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at the Visa Bulletin, what it means for your green card application, and how to use it to your advantage.

What is the Visa Bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication that provides information on the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the various family and employment-based categories of U.S. immigration. The publication contains a chart that shows the cutoff dates for each category, which determines who is eligible to apply for a green card that month based on country of birth.

The cutoff date is the priority date of the first applicant who could not be accommodated for a visa number in that particular category for that particular country. Visas for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (i.e. spouse, child under age 21, and parents) are unlimited so the visa bulletin is not relevant for the immediate relative category.

In all other categories, such as those for siblings of U.S. citizens or employment-based categories, the demand for visas exceeds the supply, and there may be a waiting period before a visa becomes available.

Why is the Visa Bulletin important?

The Visa Bulletin is critical for those who are waiting to apply for a green card, as it helps them understand the current state of the visa backlog and when they may become eligible to apply for their green card. It is also useful for employers and immigration attorneys who are working with foreign nationals seeking employment-based green cards.

By checking the Visa Bulletin regularly, you can stay informed about when your priority date may become current and when you can file your green card application. If you are in an oversubscribed category, you can also use the Visa Bulletin to estimate how long you may need to wait before a visa number becomes available.

How to read the Visa Bulletin

The Visa Bulletin can be a bit confusing at first, but with some practice, it can be a valuable tool in your immigration journey. Here are some key terms and concepts to keep in mind:

  • Priority date: The date your green card petition was filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or with the Department of Labor if you applied through the PERM labor certification process. This is the date that establishes your place in the queue for a visa number.
  • Final action date: The cutoff date for your category and country of chargeability (country of birth) when your application can be approved. This is the date you need to watch to determine when you can file your green card application or when your pending application can be approved..
  • Dates for filing: The earlier cutoff dates in the chart, which indicate when you can file your green card application if USCIS is accepting applications based on the "Dates for Filing" chart.

Tips for using the Visa Bulletin

To make the most of the Visa Bulletin, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Check the Visa Bulletin regularly: The Visa Bulletin is updated monthly, so make sure to check it regularly to stay informed about the availability of visa numbers.
  • Understand your priority date: Your priority date is crucial in determining when you can file your green card application, so make sure you know what it is and keep track of it.
  • Be patient: Depending on your category and country of chargeability, you may need to wait several years before a visa number becomes available. Be patient and plan accordingly.

In conclusion, the Visa Bulletin is a critical resource for those seeking a green card in the United States. By understanding the cutoff dates and priority dates, you can stay informed about the availability of visa numbers and plan your immigration journey accordingly. 

Resources: Department of State Visa BulletinUSCIS Adjustment of Status Filing Charts from Visa Bulletin

We hope this article helps you understand basic immigration requirements, but please don't consider it as legal advice or legal opinion about your specific circumstances.  Immigration rules are complex so contact a qualified immigration attorney for qualified advice and guidance.

For legal advice and guidance for your unique situation, you are invited to schedule a consultation by completing our contact form on this website.

About the Author

Ann Badmus

Principal and Managing Attorney


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