Visa Bulletin

Visa Bulletin is a regularly updated publication pertaining to immigration to the United States published by the United States Department of State. The main purpose of the Visa Bulletin is to provide a waiting list (also referred to as Priority Date) for immigrants who are subject to the quota system. The Visa Bulletin is updated monthly. The content of the bulletin is available on the web at the following url:

http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html

Updated Instructions for Using the DOS Visa Bulletin (10/14/2015)

Beginning with the November 2015 Department of State (DOS) Visa Bulletin, if USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, they will state on www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo that applicants may use the Dates for Filing Visa Applications chart. Unless otherwise stated on their website, the Application Final Action Date chart will be used to determine when individuals may file their adjustment of status applications.

PDF Version of the November Visa Bulletin:

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Download the PDF Version of the November 2015 Visa Bulletin

November 2015 Visa Bulletin

Download Previous Visa Bulletins:

October 2015 Visa Bulletin

Background Information on the Visa Bulletin

The United States limits immigration by limiting the number of foreign nationals allowed into the country each year. Immigrants seeking entry to the United States are categorized under those that need a waiting list, such as those seeking admission as a relative of a permanent resident, and those who do not require placement on a waiting list, such as the husband or wife of a United States citizen. For visas that require a waiting list, only a particular number of visas are made available on yearly basis. As an example, there are roughly 23,000 visas available for married sons and daughters of United States citizens and if the number of applicants in a year is over the available visa numbers then those applicants are placed in a queue and are given a priority date. The priority date is essentially an estimate for when an immigrant would get a visa based on the number of previous applicants in the queue.

The United States Department of State, Visa Control and Reporting Division has the responsibility of determining the movement of immigrant visa cut-off dates each month and for publishing the monthly Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication which provides updated monthly numbers of the list of applicants and the current priority date for those applicants. The publication is ordinarily issued the second or third week of each month.

Each individual must have his/her own personal immigrant visa number in order to live permanently in the United States. A foreign national can seek an Immigrant Visa at a U.S. Consulate outside the U.S., or file for an Adjustment of Status with USCIS inside the U.S.

Only a limited number of immigrant visas are available in each category. Immigrant Visas are also limited by the country of chargeability, which is usually the country where the immigrant is born. Those who are eligible for a family based immigrant visa petition (Form I-130) fall into a preference category and must wait in the queue for their category and country of chargeability to accept new applicants.

Example of a United States Permanent Resident Card

Example of a United States Permanent Resident Card

How Visa Bulletin is Organized

Visa Bulletin follows a standard format to sort the priority dates of the applicants and is categories according to the following visa categories:

  1. Preference Allocation for Family-sponsored immigrants (INA Section 203(a))
  2. Preference Allocation for Employment-based immigrants (INA Section 203(b))
  3. Diversity immigrants (INA Section 203(c))

How to Read the Visa Bulletin

For the preference visa categories, tables for family-sponsored and employment-based visa number availability are published in each Visa Bulletin release. In the tables, “C” means current, i.e., visa numbers are available for all qualified applicants; and “U” means unavailable which means no visa numbers are available.

Visa numbers are available only for applicants whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed in the tables.

If your category is “C”, that is very good news.  “C” means “Current”, which means the visas are immediately available for issuance by the consulate. If a category is oversubscribed, tables on the Visa Bulletin indicate this fact with a date, such as 15FEB05 under the appropriate chargeability area. When a category is oversubscribed, only individuals with a Priority Date earlier than the one listed on the Visa Bulletin may be issued visas.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Learn what your priority date is. You may refer to your USCIS notice of receipt. Look for the date on the receipt. This is your “priority date” which will be used to mark the time when a visa number becomes available to you.
  2. Read or download the monthly Visa Bulletin at the top of this page. You can also subscribe to the bulletin via e-mail or get a voice recording over the phone at 1-202-663-1541.
  3. Learn what your visa preference category is. Refer to the USCIS web site or the bulletin itself for details on green card preference categories. Depending on the immigrant class you are seeking, you may or may not fall into any one of several preference categories.
  4. Locate your country in the Visa Bulletin. The bulletin shows the visa preference categories on one column, and dates or letters under other columns. Most countries are grouped in one column.
  5. Check the cut-off date or status indicator. The cut-off dates are numbers you see under each area or country. Cases with priority dates earlier than the cut-off date are now open for green cards. Look for the cut-off date or status indicator for your country and preference category. If it reads “C” for “Current,” then visa numbers are available for all pending cases. If it reads “U” or “Unavailable,” then visa numbers are not currently available. If it shows a date, it is the “cut-off” date. Compare it with your priority date. Again, as stated above you have a visa number available if the priority date is earlier than the cut-off date.

How and When Does the Priority Date Change?

The Priority Dates on the Visa Bulletin table do not always advance one month at a time, and might depend upon the number of applications filed around the time of an individual’s application. The date can move backward or forward. A flood of applications for a particular chargeability area might lead to priority dates advancing only one week per month. Alternatively, a sharp drop in applications for a particular chargeability area when the application was filed might lead to priority dates advancing six months at a time.  For some categories, such as the brothers and sisters of United States citizens, the priority dates might only move a little bit.  Unfortunately, there is no way to accurately predict when a Priority Date will become current.

Archived Visa Bulletins:

You may find the archived visa bulletins at the following url:

http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html

Accuracy of the Visa Bulletin

Please note that the online versions of the Visa Bulletin published by the U.S. State Dept. are for informational purposes only and every effort has been made to ensure their accuracy. Any questions regarding a cut-off date for a specific month can often be confirmed by consulting an official copy of the Visa Bulletin, available upon request from the Visa Office.

 

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