Ep. 48 What is the Visa Bulletin and How to Use it?

  • Visa Bulletin provides valuable information on the immigrant visa number’s availability; both the family and employment side.
  • It has priority dates and cut-off dates.
  • The State Department publishes a monthly waiting list based on the applicant’s priority dates.

Raw Transcript:

Jacob: Hello everybody, welcome to Ask an Immigration Lawyer. You ask, we answer, simple. This is your host, Jacob Sapochnick.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails and inquiries about the Visa Bulletin. People ask me questions what it is and how does it work.

So, the Visa Bulletin essentially provides valuable information on the immigrant visa number’s availability – both on the family side and on the employment side. The Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication by the Bureau of Consular Affairs and is actually part of the Department of State.

So, on the family side, for example, when a US resident files for their spouses, there’s a waiting period. That’s going to be on the Visa Bulletin. On the employment side, if somebody files for the green card category EB2, EB3, they’re going to be able to track their progress on the Visa Bulletin.

So, the Visa Bulletin does a few concept that is important to understand. We have priority dates and we have cut-off dates on the bulletin. So, a priority date is the date that a immigrant initially filed his or her case to immigrant to United States by applying for an immigrant visa. So, family base applicants, it’s the date the immigration received the immigrant petition – for example I-130. And in the employment base cases it’s the date when the perm, the application for labor certification is received by the labor department or the date immigrant preference petition the form I-140 was filed. If there is no labor certification, for example in cases of National Interest Waiver. So, this is actually the priority date. That date is important because they use that date to determine the movement of the numbers.

Now a cut-off date is another concept because, you know, sometimes we have immigrants that are subject to restrictions on the annual immigrant visa quarter, so they have to wait years and years.

So, the State Department publishes a monthly waiting list based on the applicant’s priority dates that we just discussed. And it depends who is eligible to apply for adjustment of status [unclear 00:02:13].

So, on the list the State Department gives a date for each category of preferences for both family and employment based and this date is known as the cut-off date. The State Department actually makes the decision, the cut-off date, by looking at the priority date of the first applicant who could not file for adjustment of status due to the previous month’s dates and quotas. So, that’s kind of how they do it.

Why is this so important?

So, for immigrants who are subject to the annual immigrant visa quota, the priority date and the cut-off date are actually to say when they can file application to adjustment of status. If it is form 45 or if they can consular process their cases if they’re overseas. If the priority date is earlier than the cut-off date published by the State Department, then they can apply for adjustment of status or consular process, depending where they are.

But, in any case, they must wait until the cutoff date past their priority date. That’s really the key here. So, the earlier the priority date is the quicker the immigrant is going to be getting their green cards. That’s really how we read the Visa Bulletin. We can look at the priority date and look at the [unclear 00:03:32] or subject with immigrant quota. And if the priority date is earlier than the cut-off date then they can apply for the green card. If they’re inside United States or consular processing if they’re overseas. That’s really how we read it.

So, hopefully that makes sense. If you have any more questions about the Visa Bulletin please email or … email us at jacob@askanimmigrationlawyer.com and we’ll be happy to answer more questions about the Visa Bulletin. It’s kind of confusing but hopefully this information was helpful. Thanks for listening and we’ll catch you at our next episode.