What is the Visa Bulletin?
In several of our previous blogs, you may have noticed the term “visa bulletin.” This is a term that pops up quite frequently when discussing immigration matters. The visa bulletin is a monthly online publication issued by the United States Department of State containing detailed information on the availability of immigrant visa numbers. It is typically issued in the second or third week of each month.
The U.S. has placed legal limits on the number of foreign nationals that may immigrate permanently each year. These limits apply to employment based (EB), family based (FB) and diversity lottery categories (DV). The information needed to determine the availability of a visa number for a particular type of case can be found in the charts published by the visa bulletin each month.
To put it simply, immigrants are categorized under those that need a waiting list (such as such as those seeking admission as the relative of a permanent resident) and those who do not need a waiting list (such as the spouse of a U.S. citizen). For those that require a waiting list, only a certain number of visas become available each year. If the number of applicants in a year is over the available visa numbers, those applicants are placed in a queue. This essentially estimates when an applicant would receive a visa based on the number of previous applicants in the queue.
The INA also limits the annual pool of visa numbers per category and per country. Eligibility within the EB and FB preference categories is determined by the date that a case was initiated, submitting the first appropriate filing to either USCIS or the DOL. This filing date is known as the priority date. In each edition of the visa bulletin, there are charts that list dates by category and country under the EB and FB categories. The dates shown in the charts are known as cutoff dates. To be eligible for a visa number, an applicant’s priority date must fall prior to the cutoff date listed. This is known as being current. The system for the allocation of DV numbers operates in a different manner, and is explained within the visa bulletin.
The demand for visa numbers has historically been more than the available supply, particularly in the family based preference categories. The same can be said of the EB3 and EB2 categories for individuals from India and China. If demand exceeds supply in certain areas, these areas are described as being oversubscribed. The cutoff dates in the visa bulletin are established by the DOS and are based upon estimates of demand.
To view the most current visa bulletin, please visit: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin.html.
If you would like help immigrating to the United States, please schedule a consultation with one of our attorney’s today!