The Department of State (DOS) publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that lists the availability of immigrant visas by preference category for applicants chargeable to each region and country of birth. The Visa Bulletin also indicates when immigrant visa numbers will become available for applicants with approved priority dates in pending petitions, as well as provides information on application final action dates and DOS processing times.
It is important to understand how to read the Visa Bulletin in order to determine when your priority date may become current, as well as to estimate how long the overall visa process may take. Here is what you need to know to read the Visa Bulletin more effectively.
What is the Visa Bulletin?
The Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication that lists the cut-off dates for immigrant visa availability. The cut-off date is the earliest date at which an applicant can file for an immigrant visa. USCIS also uses the Visa Bulletin to determine when an applicant can file their Adjustment of Status application. It is important to understand how to read the Visa Bulletin so that you know when you will be able to file your Adjustment of Status application or when your immigrant visa will be available.
How to Read the Visa Bulletin
The Visa Bulletin is divided into two sections: Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based. The Family-Sponsored section lists the cut-off dates for family-sponsored immigrant visas, while the Employment-Based section lists the cut-off dates for employment-based immigrant visas. Each section is further divided into preference categories. To find your place in line, you will need to know your preference category and your priority date.
Understanding Your Place in Line
Your place in line is determined by your preference category and your priority date. Your preference category is the category of immigrant visa for which you are applying. There are five family-sponsored preference categories: F1, F2A, F2B, F3, and F4. There are also five employment-based preference categories: EB1, EB2, EB3, EB4, and EB5. Your priority date is the date that your Immigrant Petition was filed with USCIS.
Priority Dates and Cutoff Dates Explained
The priority date is the date that your Immigrant Petition was filed with USCIS. The cutoff date is the earliest date that an applicant can file for an immigrant visa. If your priority date is before the cutoff date, then you can proceed with your immigrant visa. If your priority date is after the cutoff date, then you will need to wait until the next month’s Visa Bulletin is released to see if your priority date has become current.
As you can probably deduce, people do not just casually read the Visa Bulletin. Instead, this bulletin is for interested parties who have already filed their initial petitions, or are looking to file one in the near future. Because the immigration process can get complicated, we always recommend employing the services of a qualified immigration attorney.
If you have any questions about your immigration case, applications, or how to interpret a Visa Bulletin, get in touch with us today!