Anyone who has applied for or is currently applying for a green card is probably familiar with the Visa Bulletin. But what exactly is it? The Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication that is released by the United States Department of State (DOS). The publication provides information about the availability of green cards and cutoff dates, informing the public about which applicants are eligible to complete the final stages of the application. For additional information on the Visa Bulletin and relevant information, reach out to a skilled immigration attorney in NYC.

What is the History of the Visa Bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin was created to fill a gap in the United States immigration system in the mid-1900s. There were consistently more applications for an immigration visa than the government was willing to give out. The DOS began releasing a monthly publication to announce which applications can move forward and an estimated time frame in which you might receive your green card. The decision on who gets to continue with the application process is largely determined based on the dates that the applications were filed.

What is Its Purpose?

This process benefits both the U.S. government and green card applicants by making it easier to determine who has the green light and being more transparent about the decision making process. Congress limits the number of green cards that can be distributed per calendar year and the amount that can be distributed based on applicants’ country of origin. Because there is such a high volume of applications and not enough visas to meet the demand, there is a backlog. The Visa Bulletin does not prevent the backlog but it helps the process run more smoothly.

How Does the Visa Bulletin Work?

The Visa Bulletin appears as a table with various columns of information. It is based on the following factors.

Priority Date: The date that your petition was filed is your priority date. It is important because it determines your place in line to receive a visa.

Cut-off Dates: Each preference category will have cut-off dates that determine if there are visas currently available for that group of applicants. If your priority date is before the cut-off date posted then you can begin the next steps in the immigration process.

Availability Predictions: The Visa Bulletin oftentimes will list predictions about future availability based on the current demand. These predictions can help people understand approximately when they will be eligible to continue their application.

Category: There are preference categories that have their own sections on the Visa Bulletin. There can be family-sponsored applications, employment-based applications, regional groups, etc. The following are the main preference categories from first preference to fourth.

  • F1: Unmarried adult children (aged 21 or over) of U.S. citizens
  • F2A: Spouse or unmarried minor children of a green card holder
  • F2B: Unmarried adult children of a green card holder
  • F3: Married children of U.S. citizens, no age requirement
  • F4: Siblings of U.S. citizens