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Understanding the Visa Bulletin

The government has placed statutory limits on how many people can immigrate to the United States each year, so once you submit your application, you may have to wait until there is a visa available in the category you applied for. Each month, the Department of State (DOS) issues a visa bulletin, which indicates when visas are available based on your priority date and country of birth. Your priority date is the date that your petition was approved by USCIS. If a labor certification was required with your petition, the priority date is the date when the certification was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor. 
What chart do I use?
The visa bulletin contains two charts for each visa category with different dates: final action dates, and dates for filing applications. If filing via Adjustment of Status, USCIS will determine which chart controls in a given month. If filing via Immigrant Processing, the National Visa Center will reach out once you can begin these steps. In general, the green card cannot be issued until the final action date is current. Visit the USCIS website here to determine what chart you should use. 
What do I do when my priority date becomes current?
In order to take action, your priority date must be earlier than the date listed in the visa bulletin. If you are applying for adjustment of status, once your priority date becomes current, you may file the I-485 form, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If you are applying through Immigrant Visa Processing (IVP), the National Visa Center will contact you when your case becomes current, or is likely to become current soon, to initiate pre-processing. Once the pre-processing is complete, NVC will forward your information to the Embassy or consulate who will contact you once an interview is scheduled. 
How does the (potential) wait time affect the PERM process?
When applying for PERM certification, employers should consult the Visa Bulletin to get a realistic timeframe as to when a potential employee would be able to secure a green card and travel to the United States. Generally, as long as the job description remains the same, the PERM certification will remain valid while the potential employee waits for their priority date to become current. There are some instances where a new PERM would be required, including (but not limited to): relocation of the job, significant change to the employee’s job description, or the elimination of a duty that required specific qualifications be met by the candidate. 
If you have questions on the visa bulletin or the green card process, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!