The life of many who wish to immigrate to the United States is dictated by the Visa Bulletin, an important document that informs when they can obtain permanent residence, after waiting several years. The Visa Bulletin is a monthly report provided by the US Department of State, which you can access through its website.
It’s a guide that both the USCIS and DOS have to define who may or may not receive an immigrant visa, depending on the date on which you submitted your application.
The US government has established a worldwide quota for immigrant visas in preferential family and work categories. The annual quota is 366,000 visas, of which 226,000 are assigned to the family preferential categories.
What are the preferential categories regarding family petitions?
The 5 preferential categories identified by the Visa Bulletin are:
- F1: US citizen parents requesting their children over 21 years of age unmarried.
- F2A: Resident asking his spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age.
- F2B: Resident parents asking their children over 21 years of age unmarried.
- F3: US citizen parents petitioning for their married children.
- F4: American citizen brothers asking their brothers.
In these categories there is a waiting period, because each of them is assigned a quota of immigrant visas available per country.
What are the preferential categories regarding employer applications?
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The 8 preferential categories identified by the Visa Bulletin are:
- Other workers
- Certain religious workers
- EB5 Regional Center
- EB5 Non-Regional Center
To whom does the annual quota of immigrant visas not apply, not having a waiting period?
The fees assigned by Congress don’t apply to beneficiaries who are considered immediate family members. The Immigration Law considers as immediate relatives:
- Spouses of US citizens.
- Children under the age of 21, unmarried, of US citizen parents.
- Parents of US citizen children, who must be over 21 years of age, in order to apply to their parents.
What is the priority date?
It’s the date the USCIS receives the I-130 or I-140 application. If it’s an employment-based case, the priority date is the date on which the Department of Labor receives the request to certify that the worker is eligible for permanent residence.
This date is very important, because it will allow an immigrant beneficiary to follow up on their case, through the Visa Bulletin.
How often is the Visa Bulletin updated?
The newsletter is normally available at the end of the second week of the month and shows the dates of availability for the following month.
Why are priority dates sometimes pushed back?
This occurs when demand exceeds the established quota, when the government receives more applications for immigrant visas than are available.
The setback of priority dates usually coincides with the end of the government’s fiscal year, which occurs in the month of September.
How does the Visa Bulletin work?
To determine approximately the waiting time, it’s necessary to have at hand the most recently published Visa Bulletin, the priority date of the family or work petition, the beneficiary’s family or work preferential category and the country of origin of the beneficiary.
A “C” in either of the 2 tables indicates that in that category there is no waiting time and the beneficiary of a petition can obtain permanent residence immediately.
Otherwise, where a date is found means that that date for the category and country indicates the priority date of applications that the government is currently processing. If your priority date is BEFORE the date shown, you can go ahead with applying for your adjustment of status or immigrant visa. If your priority date is AFTER the date shown, you must wait until your date is current.
It’s important that you take into account that these dates don’t change every month. It’s common that, in certain categories, the date doesn’t change for a period of months or that it changes for a few days or a week in the next newsletter.
Why is the Visa Bulletin important to immigrants?
The Visa Bulletin is important because it informs foreign citizens, sponsored by immigrants in US, about when they can present the last step of the Permanent Legal Residence or “Green Card” process.