How To Read The Visa Bulletin

Q. What is Visa Bulletin?
A. Visa Bulletin is the monthly report released by US State Department (DOS) with the help of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and various field offices all over the world. Applicants whose priority date, based on their family-based (I-130) or employment-based (PERM/I-140) petition, is before the posted date are eligible to move forward. Source: Mygcvisa.com
Q. What limitations are applicable when setting priority dates in visa bulletin?
A. US Congress has set an annual quota of (a) 226,000 green cards for family-based petition and (b) 140,000 for employment-based petitions. By statute, these annual visa limits can be exceeded where certain immigrant visa numbers from the previous fiscal year’s allocation were not fully used.

In addition, Congress has set a limit of max 7% quota for each country to increase diversity of applicants immigrating to US. Without this limit, most of the immigrants will be from countries with high numbers of applications (India, China, Mexico and Philippines).

In addition to per country limit, US Congress has also set limits based on category as follows:

FAMILY-SPONSORED PREFERENCES

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents: 23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCES

First: Priority Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.

Second: Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.

Third: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, not more than 10,000 of which to "*Other Workers".

Fourth: Certain Special Immigrants: 7.1% of the worldwide level.

Fifth: Employment Creation: 7.1% of the worldwide level, not less than 3,000 of which reserved for investors in a targeted rural or high-unemployment area, and 3,000 set aside for investors in regional centers by Sec. 610 of Pub. L. 102-395.

Here is the quick overview of breakdown per category:

Family-Sponsored Total Available Per Country Limit Employment-Based Total Available Per Country Limit
F1 23,400 1,638 EB1 40,040 2,802
F2A 87,934 N/A EB2 40,040 2,802
F2B 26,266 1,838 EB3 40,040 2,802
F3 23,400 1,638 EB4 9,904 695
F4 65,000 4,550 EB5 9,904 695
Q. What does each cutoff date mean in visa bulletin??
A. Every year the number of total applications exceeds the limits set forth by US Congress above. This creates a large backlog of applications, especially from countries with higher level of applicants. Hence a cut-off date is applied for most categories where demand exceed supply.
Q. What does "C" mean in visa bulletin?
A. The "C" listing indicates that the category is current, and that applications may be filed regardless of the applicant’s priority date.
Q. What does "U" mean in visa bulletin?
A. The "U" listing indicates that the category is unauthorized (and hence unavailable). This means that no visas will be issued regardless of the applicant’s priority date.
Q. What is Chargeability area?
A. Chargeability area is the country under which green card application is filed. Typically it is the applicant's country of birth. Obtaining dual citizenship or even abandoning one’s birth citizenship does not impact chargeability.
Q. What is cross-chargeability?
A. In certain situations, an applicant may benefit from the charging of their visa to their spouse's or parent's country of birth rather than their own. This is known as cross-chargeability. Source: Mygcvisa.com

In practice, cross-chargeability is used where the preference quota category is backlogged for one spouse's country of chargeability but is current for the other spouse's country of chargeability. The principal applicant may cross-charge to the derivative spouse's country, and the derivative spouse may cross-charge to the principal's country.

Derivative children may cross-charge to either parent's country as necessary. Parents may not cross-charge to a child's country. In other words, the principal applicant or derivative spouse may never use their child's country of birth for cross-chargeability.

Eligibility

In order to benefit from cross-chargeability, both applicants must be eligible to adjust status. A derivative using the principal's country of chargeability may adjust status with the principal or at any time thereafter. When a principal uses the derivative spouse's country of chargeability, both applicants are considered principal applicants: one for the purpose of conferring immigrant status and the other for the purpose of conferring a more favorable chargeability. As such, the officer should approve both adjustment applications at the same time.

The following situations are examples of when applicants are eligible for cross-chargeability:

If a Visa is …

And a Visa is …

Then Charge the …

Available for principal applicant

Not available for derivative spouse

Derivative spouse's visa to the principal applicant's country of chargeability

Not available for principal applicant

Available for derivative spouse

Principal applicant's visa to the derivative spouse's country of chargeability

Available for principal applicant and derivative spouse

Not available for derivative child

Derivative child's visa to either parent's more favorable country of chargeability

Processing Requests for Cross-Chargeability

If a principal applicant is filing along with a derivative spouse or child and a visa appears unavailable at first glance, the officer should check the A-files for possible cross-chargeability eligibility. Often, an applicant will affirmatively request use of cross-chargeability when filing the application. In all cases where cross-chargeability provisions apply, the files should be forwarded to the adjudicating officer with a notation that indicates possible cross-chargeability. The files should be kept together in a family pack.

Q. Why does dates in visa bulletin move back (visa retrogress)?
A. Sometimes a priority date that is current one month will not be current the next month, or the cut-off date will move backwards to an earlier date. This is called visa retrogression, which occurs when more people apply for a visa in a particular category than there are visas available for that month. Visa retrogression generally occurs when the annual limit for a category or country has been used up or is expected to be used up soon. When the new fiscal year begins on October 1, a new supply of visa numbers is available for allocation. Usually, but not always, the new supply returns the cut-off dates to where they were before retrogression.

In the past, DOS has notified USCIS that several visa preference categories have become fully subscribed within days of publication of the monthly Visa Bulletin. Despite this fact, applicable regulations prevent USCIS from rejecting applications within that particular month, regardless of the actual availability of visa numbers.

If a visa was available at time of filing but is not available at time of final adjudication, the case would be retained, pre-processed, and adjudicated up to the point of final approval. If a particular applicant is ineligible for adjustment due to an issue not related to visa availability, the case may be denied accordingly because visa availability is not relevant.

Final adjudication cannot be completed until a visa has been requested and DOS approves the visa request. Once a visa number becomes available, a USCIS officer will complete a final review of the adjustment application to ensure the applicant continues to meet eligibility requirements at time of final adjudication. This includes updating any expired security checks and may also include issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) if it is unclear whether the applicant is still eligible for the particular classification or may be subject to a bar to adjustment or an inadmissibility ground, particularly in those cases that have had a long-delayed final adjudication.
Q. What are "Final Action Date" and "Date for Filing Application" in the monthly visa bulletin?
A. "Final Action Date" is the date when when USCIS/DOS may render their final decision on submitted applications. "Date for Filing Application" is the date when you can submit I-485/NVC applications to USCIS/DOS. Your priority date should be before this date.
Q. What is Visa Bulletin Date or Priority Date?
A. Visa Bulletin Date or Priority Date is the date on which USCIS received your I-130 or PERM/I-140 application. After receiving your application, USCIS will send you a I-797 form (application received form), which will include your priority date on it.

For family-sponsored immigrants, the priority date is the date that the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130), or in certain instances the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360), is properly filed with USCIS.

For employment-based immigrants, the priority date is established on the earliest of:
  • The date the petition was properly filed with USCIS or
  • The date the permanent labor certification application was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor (DOL),when a labor certification is required.
Q. When should you start checking the visa bulletin?
A. You can check the visa bulletin before filing your I-130/PERM/I-140 application. This will give you a rough idea about what dates they are currently processing application. After your I-130/I-140 application is approved, you should start checking it every month.
Q. When is the visa bulletin released?
A. The visa bulletin is typically released every month between 7th and 15th of each month. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the visa bulletin maybe released between 7th and 23rd of each month.
Q. How can I find out when visa bulletin is released?
A. There are multiple ways to find out when visa bulletin is released:
  • Frequently visit US State Department website every day between 7th and 23rd of each month.
  • Frequently call US State Department at (202) 485-7699 to get recorded message with the Final Action date information.
  • Send an E-mail to the US State Department email address: [email protected] and in the message body type: Subscribe Visa-Bulletin
  • You can sign up for our newsletter to be notified when visa bulletin is released.
  • Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to be notified when visa bulletin is released.
  • Use the Find Hidden Visa Bulletin tool to manually check for visa bulletin and (optionally) be notified when visa bulletin is found.
Q. What is diversity immigrant category?
A. US Congress has law providing up to 55,000 immigrant visas each fiscal year to permit additional immigration opportunities for persons from countries with low admissions during the previous five years. The NACARA stipulates that beginning with DV-99, and for as long as necessary, up to 5,000 of the 55,000 annually-allocated diversity visas will be made available for use under the NACARA program. This will result in reduction of the DV-2021 annual limit to approximately 54,650. DV visas are divided among six geographic regions. No one country can receive more than seven percent of the available diversity visas in any one year.

Entitlement to immigrant status in the DV category lasts only through the end of the fiscal (visa) year for which the applicant is selected in the lottery. The year of entitlement for all applicants registered for the DV-2021 program ends as of September 30. DV visas may not be issued to DV-2021 applicants after that date. Similarly, spouses and children accompanying or following to join DV-2021 principals are only entitled to derivative DV status until Sept 30. DV visa availability through the very end of FY-2020 cannot be taken for granted. Numbers could be exhausted prior to September 30.

Q. Which category do not have an annual quota?
A. Congress gave immigration priority to immediate relative immigrants, defined as:
  • The spouses of U.S. citizens
  • The children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of U.S. citizens
  • The parents of U.S. citizens at least 21 years old and
  • Widows or widowers of U.S. citizens if the spouse files a petition within 2 years of the citizen's death.

Immigrant visas for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are unlimited, so the visas are always available. In other words, immediate relatives are exempt from the numerical restrictions of other immigrant categories; an immigrant visa is always immediately available at the time they file an adjustment application and at the time of final adjudication, if approved.

Below are additional categories of aliens who are exempt from numerical restrictions and may file an adjustment of status application at any time or during the time period allowed by the applicable provision of law, provided they are otherwise eligible:
  • Persons adjusting status based on refugee or asylee status
  • Persons adjusting status based on T nonimmigrant (human trafficking victim) status
  • Persons adjusting status based on U nonimmigrant (crime victims) status
  • Persons adjusting status based on Special Agricultural Worker or Legalization provisions
  • Persons adjusting status based on public laws with certain adjustment of status programs and
  • Persons who obtain relief through a private immigration bill signed into law.

Except for human trafficking victims and Section 13 adjustment based applicants, an officer does not need to review visa availability for applicants filing in the above categories at the time of final adjudication. This includes applicants who are immediate relatives.
Q. What to do when your priority date is current?
A. If priority date is current and

1. If applicant is inside US, they will have to file I-485: https://blog.mygcvisa.com/2013/04/how-to-file-i-485-application.html

2. If applicant is outside US, it will be sent to NVC: https://www.mygcvisa.com/nvc/overview-after-nvc-petition-approved.aspx
Q. How long is the wait time for priority date to be current?
A. To estimate when priority date maybe current, please click here: https://www.mygcvisa.com/calculator
Q. How can you check the case status?
A. To check you case status, please click here: https://www.mygcvisa.com/calculator/#CaseStatus

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