Understanding the Visa Bulletin

What is the Visa Bulletin?
The visa bulletin is a document published online every month by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and USCIS. It is how the U.S. government tells those with an approved family (Form I-130) or employment-based immigration petition (Form I-140) when they are eligible to apply for a green card.

Why aren’t all categories always current?
The numbers of visas available each year for each category are limited. There are also per-country limits. Each year, for most categories, there are more green card applicants with approved family or employment-based petitions than available visas – demand is far greater than the supply. This creates a backlog and a long line of people waiting for an available visa. The more the demand exceeds supply, the longer the line and the greater the backlog.

What information do I need to see if my priority date is current?
Before checking the visa bulletin, you will need to know several details about your approved petition.

  • The category
  • The country where the primary applicant was born.
  • The priority date

 

How do I use this information to tell if my date is current?
Scroll down the chart for your type of petition, and use the category and country to find the box for your petition type. The “C” listing indicates that the category is current and that applications may be filed regardless of the applicant’s priority date. The listing of a date for any category indicates that only applicants with a priority date earlier than the listed date may file their green card application.

What is the difference between the “Final Action” charts and the “Dates for Filing” chart?
The final action chart indicates when a green card may be issued. However, since it takes a while for green card applications to be processed, applications can be filed in advance of this “final action date” using the “Dates for Filing” chart.

How does the government determine how far forward to move each category each month?
Essentially, the government takes the annual number of visas available for each category, divides it by 12 (supply), and moves the dates forward enough to meet the supply (demand). Unfortunately, it is difficult to calculate how much demand will be generated by each move forward, so sometimes all visas are used up before the end of the year, making some categories “U” for “unavailable.”