Immigrantly

Immigration thoughts from an Immigration Lawyer.

Understanding the Visa Bulletin and When Your Priority Date Becomes Current

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The Visa Bulletin is a guidance to how much longer you have to wait before you can get your green card.  However, the Visa Bulletin is a bit tricky to understand for a first-time viewer. The following is to show you how to read the Visa Bulletin and to estimate your waiting time. 

The Basics

The Visa Bulletin shows the following charts for green card applications based on Family-Sponsored Preferences, and Employment-Based Preferences. The following charts are taken from the July 2015 Visa Bulletin.

Family-Sponsored All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
F1 01OCT07 01OCT07 01OCT07 15NOV94 15MAR00
F2A 08NOV13 08NOV13 08NOV13 15SEP13 08NOV13
F2B 15OCT08 15OCT08 15OCT08 08APR95 15MAY04
F3 15MAR04 15MAR04 15MAR04 22APR94 22AUG93
F4 22OCT02 22OCT02 22OCT02 01MAR97 08DEC91

F1: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens

F2A: Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents

F2B: Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents

F3: Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens

F4: Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens

Employment- Based All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA – mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st C C C C C
2nd C 01OCT13 01OCT08 C C
3rd 01APR15 01SEP11 01FEB04 01APR15 U
Other Workers 01APR15 01JAN06 01FEB04 01APR15 U
4th C C C C C
Certain Religious Workers C C C C C
5th
Targeted
Employment
Areas/
Regional Centers
and Pilot Programs
C 01SEP13 C C C

1st: EB1 (Priority Workers)

2nd: EB2 (Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability & National Interest Waiver)

3rd: EB3 (Skilled Workers & Professionals)

4th: EB4 (Certain Special Immigrants)

5th: EB5 (Employment Creation, Investment)

Reading Instructions

  1. On the far left column, find which category your petition is in.
  2. On the top row, find the country where you were born, NOT the country of your nationality.
  3. Find the date or letter (“C” or “U”) at the crossing cell of your applicable column and row.
    1. If you find “C”, congratulations! This means your priority date is current. You don’t have any wait time and can file your I-485 or proceed with your consular processing for an immigrant visa (assuming all necessary prior petition steps have already been taken care of).
    2. If you find “U”, sorry…This means there is no visa number available, and you probably need to wait for a really long time.
    3. If you find a date, this means that all petitions with priority date prior to the shown date can file I-485 or proceed with consular processing.
  4. Find your priority date on your I-130, I-140, or I-526 Receipt Notice where it says “PRIORITY DATE.”
  5. If your priority date is after the date shown on the Visa Bulletin, the difference between the two dates are your estimated waiting time.

Example

Mr. A was born in mainland China, and his company is petitioning for his green card under the EB2 category (employment-based preference). Mr. A’s priority date is 10/01/2014. In Mr. A’s case, he will look at the green cell below. Since the current priority date is 10/01/2013, the estimated waiting time for Mr. A. will be 1 year.

Employment- Based All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA – mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st C C C C C
2nd C 01OCT13 01OCT08 C C
3rd 01APR15 01SEP11 01FEB04 01APR15 U
Other Workers 01APR15 01JAN06 01FEB04 01APR15 U
4th C C C C C
Certain Religious Workers C C C C C
5th
Targeted
Employment
Areas/
Regional Centers
and Pilot Programs
C 01SEP13 C C C

The Odds of the Estimated Waiting Time

The above explained method of estimation is the best we can do given the information available. However, it is based on the presumption that the listed priority date will move forward at the same speed as the real time does, which is not always the case. For example, between January 2015 and February 2015, EB2 India moved forward by 6.5 months. On the other hand, sometimes the priority date moves backwards (usually called “retrogression”). For example, between May 2015 and June 2015, F1 Philippines retrogressed by 5 years. These big gaps are due to USCIS not being able to accurately estimate how many visa numbers will be available. As included in the President Obama’s November 20. 2014 announcement, the USCIS will work on modernization of the immigration visa system so that they can have better estimates. But until then, you should always check the most current Visa Bulletin for the most up-to-date information, plan the timing of your green card application carefully, and have a backup plan in case the priority date retrogresses.

To get the most up-to-date Visa Bulletin, you can be placed on the Department of State’s E-mail subscription list by sending an E-mail to listserv@calist.state.gov and in the message body type “Subscribe Visa-Bulletin.”

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