The Department of State (DOS) is responsible for administering the provisions of the immigration law regarding the number of immigrant visa that can be issued each year. Each month the DOS releases the Visa Bulletin listing the various immigration visa categories and their Priority Dates. The Visa Bulletin contains important information regarding immigration. Use the links below to locate the desired bulletin.
How the Visa Bulletin System Operates
At the beginning of each month, a unit of the DOS called the Visa Office (VO) receives a report from each U.S. Consulate listing the number of immigrant visa applicants they have in categories subject to numerical limitation. The cases are grouped by foreign country chargeability, preference, and priority date. Based on this information, as well as how many Adjustment of Status applications were filed or pending with the USCIS, the VO estimates how many immigrant visas will be used the next month (the "demand"). If there are enough visa numbers in a particular category to satisfy the demand the category is considered "Current". This is shown by a “C” listed in the Visa Bulletin. If the demand in a category exceeds the available visas for that month the category is considered "oversubscribed" and a cut-off date is established. The cut-off date is the priority date of the first qualified applicant who could would not eligible for a visa number. For example, if only 3000 visas in a particular category are available that month, then the cut-off date would be the priority date of the 3,001st applicant. Therefore, only persons with a priority date earlier than a cut-off date are eligible to apply for a visa, or file for adjustment of status.
Definitions of Some Common Terms
Priority Date: In the case of a family based petitions, the Priority Date is the date your I-130 petition was filed. In employment based cases, it is either the date your Labor Certification Application was filed, if your case did not require a LCA, it’s the date your I-140 was filed. Once the I-130 or I-140 petition is approved, how long it takes to immigrant to the U.S. depends on how many immigrant visas can be issued each year in your category.
Foreign State Chargeability: Generally, you are charged to the foreign country where you were born, and not your current country of citizenship if different from where you were born. To prevent family separation, children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) and spouses accompanying or following to join a principal applicant are charged to the country of the principal. Alternate chargeability can also be used when the visa cut-off date for the country of a parent or spouse is more advantageous than that of the principal applicant's country. As an example, if you are the principal applicant and were born in India, but your spouse was born in England, you can request that you be charged to England since the waiting time in most visa categories is longer for those born in India as compared to those born in England.
Preference Category: In family based immigration, your preference category is based on your petitioner’s status (U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident) and your relationship to the applicant (spouse, minor child, adult son or daughter, etc.) In employment based cases it is based on your qualifications and the type and requirements of the job you are being petitioned for. A spouse, parent or child of a U.S. Citizen is considered and Immediate Relative, and are not subject to the waiting time as are those is a Preference Category.
Per-county limit: This is the number of immigrant visas that can be issued each year to applicants from a particular country. The annual per-country limit is 7%, which means that no single country may receive more than 7% of the available visas in a category. The country limitation prevents applicants from a few countries getting or using all of the visas. If you are from the Philippines, Mexico, China or India, because they have such a large number of applicants they exceed the annual per country limit and are considered oversubscribed.
Oversubscribed: When visa demand by applicants from a particular country exceeds the amount of numbers available under the annual per-country limit, that country is oversubscribed. This results in the establishment of a Priority Date cut-off date that is earlier than those in a particular visa category on a worldwide basis. This is why the Priority Dates for people from countries such as the Philippines and Mexico are so far behind those from other countries in most preference categories. As a result, you have to wait longer for your visa to become current.
Retrogression: Retrogression is when a particular Priority Date in a category goes backwards. This frequently happens near the end of the fiscal year (September 30th) when the number of visas issued reaches the annual limit. If retrogression happens before you visa is issued, you cannot be issued one, even if you completed your interview. If retrogression happens after you filed for adjustment of status, your application cannot be approved and will be held in abeyance until the Priority Date becomes current again.
If you have any questions about your Priority Date, contact our office at 714-479-1000