Reading the Monthly Visa Bulletin

Visa Bulletin Background
There are only a set number of immigrant visas that can be issued each year to individuals applying for their permanent residence.  Generally, there are 226,000 visas available for family-sponsored visas and 140,000 visas available each year for employment-based visas.  If there is a higher demand for visas than the number of visas available, then individuals will be placed in a waiting list to receive their visa.  The Department of State considers an immigrant’s preference category, country of birth, and priority date to decide when an individual’s visa will be processed.

Priority Date
A priority date is found on an immigrant’s Form I-797, Notice of Action for the petition that was filed on their behalf.  The Department of State determines the application date that it will process family-sponsored visas and employment-based visas each month and publishes this information on the website.  An immigrant’s priority date must be current or earlier than the application date for their family-sponsored or employment-based visa to be processed.

Dates for Filing and Final Action Dates Charts
The Department of State publishes two different charts on the website to show whether or not a priority date is current.  If USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available than applicants for a visa, then the “Dates for Filing” chart may be utilized.  Otherwise, the “Final Action Dates” chart should be referenced to determine whether or not a priority date is current.

All applicants must reference the website to determine whether USCIS will be following the “Dates for Filing” or the “Final Action Dates” chart.  Once an applicant determines which chart USCIS will be following, they must reference the charts on the website to determine which dates are current.

Reading the Visa Bulletin Charts
Both the “Dates for Filing” and the “Final Action Dates” categorizes priority dates depending on what type of visa an immigrant is seeking, the immigrant’s preference category, and the immigrant’s country of birth.  It is important to check the priority dates each month on the visa bulletin because the priority dates can change or the cut-off date can move back to an earlier date (retrogress).  If you have any questions regarding the visa bulletin or next steps once your priority date is current, you should contact your attorney who will be able to assist you with your questions.