Understanding the Visa Bulletin: A Crucial Tool Necessary to Navigate U.S. Immigration

One of the most critical resources for both immigration professionals and applicants is the Visa Bulletin. Published monthly by the U.S. Department of State, the Visa Bulletin provides vital information on the availability of immigrant visa numbers and helps applicants understand their place in the visa queue. This article will explain the significance of the Visa Bulletin, describe its primary charts, and outline how and when it is used.


What is the Visa Bulletin?


The Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication that offers a snapshot of the availability of immigrant visas, commonly referred to as “green cards,” in family, humanitarian, and employment-based cases. It is a key resource for applicants seeking to understand when and if they can proceed with their applications for permanent residency. Please note that each category has a limited number of green cards available annually. The Visa Bulletin’s primary purpose is to inform applicants and their representatives about the wait times for different categories of visas, ensuring transparency in the process.

The Visa Bulletin lists several dates, countries, and categories. Each category is explained in the bulletin. It is important to identify the category under which you are applying for a green card in order to determine whether a green card is currently available for you.




The 2 Charts: Final Action Dates and Dates for Filing Charts


The Visa Bulletin contains two essential charts that applicants and attorneys need to comprehend: the Final Action Dates chart and the Dates for Filing chart.


  • Final Action Dates


This chart indicates the dates when visas are expected to be available for applicants. If an applicant’s priority date (the date their petition was filed) is earlier than the date listed in this chart, it means that their visa application can be adjudicated, and, if approved, a visa number will be assigned. Essentially, this chart shows when applicants can receive their green cards. Applicants can assume that if their priority date (see the receipt notice for your underlying petition to determine your priority date) is before the date listed, a green card is currently available for them.


  • Dates for Filing


This chart provides the dates when applicants can submit their visa applications to the National Visa Center (NVC) or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The purpose of this chart is to allow applicants to begin the final steps of their immigration process even if their visa is not yet available. This can include gathering necessary documents and completing required forms, thereby reducing the overall processing time once their priority date becomes current. Applicants can assume that if their priority date is before the date listed, an adjustment of status or immigrant visa application can be submitted.


adjustment status application form


Applicants who are eligible to file their adjustment of status applications can also apply for work and travel authorization while they wait for a green card to become available in their category.

Applications for permanent residence in the U.S. can be complicated. Submitting an application too soon can result in a rejection and sometimes put applicants out of status. Waiting too long to submit your application can put you at risk of abandoning your application and delaying the attainment of available immigration benefits. It is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your green card application. Our team is here to help and can be reached at 703.348.1663.

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