The visa bulletin is a monthly online publication released by the U.S. State Department to determine when foreign nationals can file their application for a U.S. green card. The visa bulletin also determines wait times for different categories of green card applicants and shows how many visas are available for that month.By reading and processing the information released in each monthly visa bulletin, green card applicants can determine the wait-times for green card.

In other words, the Visa Bulletin shows the number of the backlog of visa applicants for each visa category.

Sample Analysis of A visa Bulletin: October 2020 Visa Bulletin


Immigrant Visa Wait Times

The United States Congress reserves a tight hold on the number of immigrants entering the United States every year. The number of visas reserved for new immigrants is limited in each category and each country. The various categories of the visa bulletin represent the demand for a green card within the different categories (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, or F2A, etc.) within the corresponding per-country limitations. These wait times are also dependent on the demand of a certain green card category.This could mean that even if you are being sponsored for an employment-based or family-based green card, you may have to wait several years before you may obtain your green card.



There is no definite time limit for your visa waiting period; it all depends on the number of visa applicants from your category and your country. Any applicants who applied before you would get their visa before you receive yours. The wait is especially long for nationals of certain countries with a high amount of visa applicants such as China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines.

What Is A Priority Date In A Visa Bulletin?

A priority date within a visa bulletin shows the date at which a green card applicant had filed his PERM labor certification was filed with the Department of Labor (DOL). It will be his place in line for the green card.

It is important to note: For employment-based applicants that do not require an LCA certification, the priority date is the I-140 filing date.

Cut-Off Dates: What Do They Look Like In A Visa Bulletin?


How To Navigate The Charts In A Visa Bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin has two charts each for the employment-based category and the family-based green card category called Final Action Dates and Dates for Filing.

Final action dates determines the priority dates that is at the front of the green card wait line.

Dates for filing represents individuals whose priority date is before the date listed on the visa bulletin.

How To Read The Visa Bulletin?

Step 1: Identify The Right Chart

Be it the final action dates chart or the date for filing chart, first identify the chart that pertains to your category.

Employment-basedAll
Chargeability areas except
those
listed
China-Mainland
born
India
1st22APR1810May1711Jan14
2ndC01Nov1620Apr10
3rdC11Jan1601Jul09
Other workersC25Nov0801Jul08
4thCCC
Certain
religious
workers
CCC
5th Non-
Regional
Center (C5 and
T5)
C01Oct1405May17
5th Regional
Center (I5 and
R5)
C01Oct1401May16

Step 2: Identify Your Visa Preference (First Column in Chart)

The different visa categories are listed in the first column - pick one that applies to you

Employment-basedAll
Chargeability areas except
those
listed
China-Mainland
born
India
1st22APR1810May1711Jan14
2ndC01Nov1620Apr10
3rdC11Jan1601Jul09
Other workersC25Nov0801Jul08
4thCCC
Certain
religious
workers
CCC
5th Non-
Regional
Center (C5 and
T5)
C01Oct1405May17
5th Regional
Center (I5 and
R5)
C01Oct1401May16

Step 3: Identify The Priority Date

Once you locate your visa preference from the first column, you move right in the same row and find the corresponding priority date under your country of birth

Regarding 'C' in the Visa Bulletin Chart: If the date on the chart is marked as C, the foreign nationals priority date is earlier than the date listed and the applicant can file the Form I-485.

Employment-basedAll
Chargeability areas except
those
listed
China-Mainland
born
India
1st22APR1810May1711Jan14
2ndC01Nov1620Apr10
3rdC11Jan1601Jul09
Other workersC25Nov0801Jul08
4thCCC
Certain
religious
workers
CCC
5th Non-
Regional
Center (C5 and
T5)
C01Oct1405May17
5th Regional
Center (I5 and
R5)
C01Oct1401May16

Visa Preference Categories

Immigrant visas in the US fall under two visa preference categories: family-based green card and employment-based green card.

Family-Based Preferences: For immigrants whose visas are sponsored by a family member. Family-based preference is divided into 4 categories:



  • First preference or F1: Includes children of a US citizen under the age of 21.
  • Second preference or F2: The second preference family based visa consists of two subcategories, F2A and F2B.
    • F2A includes spouse and children (below 21 years in age) of a legal permanent resident.
    • F2B category includes unmarried children of a permanent US resident who are older than 21 years.
  • Third preference: Includes married children of a US citizen.
  • Fourth preference: Includes siblings of a US citizen.

Employment-Based Preferences: For immigrants whose visas are sponsored by their employer. Employment-based visa preference is divided into 4 categories:



  • First preference or EB1: Includes priority workers
  • Second preference or EB2: Includes employees who have advanced degrees and hold specialized knowledge in their field
  • Third preference or EB3: Includes skilled workers and professionals
  • Fourth preference or EB4: Includes special immigrants including religious workers
  • Fifth preference or EB5: Includes investors who have the ability to create jobs in the US

Visa Allotment Process

The United States government puts a cap on the number of immigrants allowed in the country each year. This number is carefully decided for each category and is the same for each country, so the number of visas available for a small country is equal to the number of visas available for nations with populations of over a billion (like India and China). Here is the total number of visas allowed for the current year.

Family Based Visas

  • F1: 23,400 visas plus any visas remaining from the visas in F4 preference.
  • F2A: Out of total 114,200 visas reserved for F2 preference, 77% are reserved for F2A preference.
  • F2B: Remaining 23% of 114,200 visas.
  • F3: 23,400 visas plus any visas unused for F1 and F2 preference.
  • F4: 65,000 visas plus any visas unused for F1, F2 and F3 preference.

Employment Based Visas

  • EB1: 28.6% of all worldwide employment based visas and all unused visas from EB4 and EB5 category.
  • EB2: 28.6% of all worldwide employment based visas and all unused visas from EB1 category.
  • EB3: 28.6% of all worldwide employment based visas and all unused visas from EB3 category.
  • EB4: 7.1% of all worldwide level
  • EB5: 7.1% of all worldwide level with several other reservations for sectors available.

Visa Bulletin Terms



Importance of Visa Bulletin

It is extremely important to follow the visa bulletin, especially when your cut-off date is near, since the date could advance as well as retrograde by a few months or even years. If your priority date is the same as the cut-off date, you may have to apply for readjustment of status and prepare for a visa interview. In other words, if your priority date has become the current date, you have to initiate the process of getting your green card.

If you fail to check your cut-off date, the government will try to contact you. However, in the event that you have changed your address or cannot be reached within the necessary time frame, your spot will be given to the person who is next in line.