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How to understand U.S. Visa Bulletin

What is U.S. Visa Bulletin

U.S. visas are divided into immigrant visas or the ones that lead directly to a green card when their holder is crossing the border using them, and non-immigrant visas, the ones that are used to come to the US for various purposes, but by themselves they do not lead to a green card of status of permanent resident in the U.S. For example, if a person is sponsored by an employer or by a spouse, most likely he or she will get an immigrant visa. But if a person files for the visa herself let’s say to come to study in the US, to participate in Work and Travel program, to temporary work in the U.S., she will be applying for a non-immigrant visa. To be fair, some visas are called “dual intent” meaning that it is understood that a person may be interested in a permanent relocation into the U.S. even though the visa by itself is a temporary visa, like H1B.

Only immigrant visas for immediate relatives are unlimited in the U.S. All other immigrant visas are subject to quotas. Visa bulletin is establishing how fast the quotas are used in a current period and essentially provides a wait time for certain categories of immigrant visas.

What are the Preference Categories or Categories subject to Quotas and Wait time?

Here is the list of family-based preference categories (all categories of visas except for immediate relatives are called “preference categories”)

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: this category is for children who are over 21, and not married. You can read more about how to bring your children into the US here: How One Can Bring Their Children To The US To Live With Them

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  a child is a biological child under 21, or a step-child when the parents married before the child’s 18’s birthday! At times, a child who has grown and well above 21 will be considered a child if Child Protection Status Act is applied.

  • A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents
  • B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents. Please note it is not possible for a lawful permanent resident to sponsor married sons and daughters.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: this is by far the longest wait time category.

Now, in addition to the family categories, there are also regions that have its own wait time. The table will look something like this:

Family-SponsoredAll Chargeability Areas
Except Those Listed
China-mainland
 born
IndiaMexicoPhilippines
F115MAY1315MAY1315MAY1308AUG9701NOV08
F2ACCCCC
F2B08AUG1408AUG1408AUG1422AUG9801DEC08
F308NOV0708NOV0708NOV0722FEB9601SEP98
F401FEB0701FEB0701NOV0415DEC9715DEC98

How to read the Visa Bulletin

Now, the most important part of the visa bulletin is to understand when you can submit your immigrant visa case. To determine that you need to look at the chart, find your category, and region and then look at the date in the relevant box. When you see “C” instead of the date, it means that the category is “current”: visas are available immediately. And you see “U” it means visas are not available at all at the current time. So, if you see a date (like for example F1, India, the date is May 15, 2013). It means the visas are authorized to be issued only when priority date on the I 130 receipt is earlier than the date listed.

Priority Date

It is worth mentioning the priority date here. The priority date is the date assigned by the government ot your or your sponsor’s petition and it is published at the top of the I 130 receipt. It determines the line your petition will have in the relevant category. On how to transfer the priority date between various family petitions, please see: Recapturing priority date for kids.

Filing Date Chart vs. Final Action Chart

But about couple of years ago, the matters is visa bulletin became even more complicated! Now, there are two tables: dates for filing and final action dates! So, which dates to use to submit your paperwork to the NVC or adjustment of status? One will actually have to read the visa bulletin announcement for the relevant month, as each month, the government actually states which table to use for filing!

Now, this was the explanation for the Family-based categories. There are separate charts and dates for employment based categories as well.

If you have questions regarding visa bulletin and priory dates, please call NYC Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova at 917-885-2261 or reserve a consultation here.

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