DOS Visa Bulletin

The issuance of certain family and employment-based immigrant visas is subject to yearly quotas that are updated each month through the  US Department of State (DOS) Visa Bulletin. The wait times for each immigrant visa category vary depending on the number of applications submitted in a given month. Wait times can fluctuate forward and backward depending on immigrant visa allocation and the number of applications submitted. Your wait time can be tracked by comparing your priority date against the visa bulletin. We explain “Priority Dates”, “Final Action Dates”, and “Dates for Filing Applications” here.

What is the “DOS Visa Bulletin”?

The DOS Visa Bulletin is the way that the US Department of State tracks the issuance of both family-based and employment-based immigrant visas each year. The visa bulletin is updated each month to reflect the current wait times for processing immigrant visas at consulates and embassies and for submitting Form I-485 Adjustment applications with USCIS. The visa bulletin details each preference category and country-specific wait times.

What is my “Priority Date”?

Applicants for immigrant visas under preference categories that are subject to the visa bulletin are assigned “priority dates” when the initial immigrant visa petition or labor certification is filed. The priority date indicates the applicant’s place in line for a green card.  You are able to find your priority date on your USCS I-797 Notice of Action and/or your DOL ETA 9089. Once the priority date becomes “current” the applicant is able to complete the immigrant visa process to obtain a green card.

How do I know if my priority date is current?

Your priority date is current if the date listed under your preference category on the visa bulletin contains a “C” for current or if your date is earlier than the listed date.

What is the “Final Action Date”?

The “Final Action Date” indicates the dates an immigrant visa number will be available for a foreign national with a current priority date that month. This is the date when the applicant’s immigrant visa or green card can be issued. An immigrant visa or green card cannot be issued unless the applicant’s priority date is earlier than the Final Action Date listed on the visa bulletin.

What are the”Dates for Filing Applications”?

The “Dates for Filing Applications” are the earliest dates green card applicants may apply for adjustment of status through USCIS Form I-485. The National Visa Center (NVC) uses these dates to notify applicants that they are ready to process their case and collect the documents required for consular processing. These dates are typically several months prior to the expected Final Action Dates and allow applicants to submit their application for permanent residence and relevant documents before it is time for the government to approve it. This allows adjustment applicants the ability to apply for work authorization and travel authorization earlier than waiting for the priority date to be current under the Final Action Date.

What are the preference categories for family-based immigrant visas?

Immediate relatives of US Citizens (USC) are not subject to the visa bulletin. These include the spouse of a USC, parents of a USC, children of a USC under the age of 21. All others are subject to the visa bulletin in the following preference categories:

  1. First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.
  2. Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:
    • (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
    • (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents: 23% of the overall second preference limitation.
  3. Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.
  4. Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

What are the preference categories for employment-based immigrant visas?

  1. First (EB1): Priority Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.
  2. Second (EB2):  Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.
  3. Third (EB3):  Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, not more than 10,000 of which to “*Other Workers”.
  4. Fourth (EB4): Certain Special Immigrants: 7.1% of the worldwide level.
  5. Fifth (EB5): Employment Creation: 7.1% of the worldwide level, not less than 3,000 of which are reserved for investors in a targeted rural or high-unemployment area, and 3,000 are set aside for investors in regional centers by Sec. 610 of Pub. L. 102-395.

What country do I use on the visa bulletin?

Your country of birth NOT your country of citizenship is used to determine your filing date and final action dates on the visa bulletin. In some situations, it is possible to use your spouse’s country of birth to obtain your green card approval more quickly.

How do I determine my place in line on the visa bulletin?

To determine your approximate wait time, compare your priority date against the date listed on the visa bulletin for your preference category. For example, if your preference category is “F1” and priority is 15JUN21, and the date listed on the visa bulletin is 15MAY19, you would subtract your priority date from the date on the visa bulletin. In this case 517 days. We use a simple date calculator to determine the total wait time.

If I am inside the US, when do I file for adjustment of status?

If you are currently inside the US in valid immigration status, you are able to file Form I-485 Adjustment of Status with USCIS once your priority date is earlier than the date listed under “Dates for Filing Applications.” You should check both the DOS Visa Bulletin and USCIS Adjustment of Status Filing chart before filing.

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