The Monthly Visa Bulletin: What It Is and How to Read It
The U.S. Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin in the middle of each month that contains information related to current immigrant visa availability (i.e., ability to apply for the final step of the Permanent Residency process – either Adjustment of Status of Consular Immigration Visa Processing) for the following month. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited immigrant visas are available to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority dates. In employment-based cases, an individual’s priority date may be either the date on which a PERM Labor Certification Application or Form I-140, Immigrant Petition is filed, depending on the employment-based preference category. An individual’s employment-based preference category is determined primarily by the minimum requirements of the offered, permanent position and/or the individual’s educational and employment background.
Final Action vs. Filing Dates
Each month’s Visa Bulletin includes two employment-based charts – one labeled as “Final Action Dates” and one as “Dates for Filing.” Generally speaking, an applicant’s Priority Date must be before the cut-off date listed for the applicant’s preference category and Chargeability Area (country of birth) in the “Final Action Dates” chart in order for Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status to be accepted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or for an Immigrant Visa to be issued. In the case of preference categories and chargeability areas with comparably lower demand, the chart often reads as “Current,” meaning there is no priority date-based cut-off in that category. While USCIS has recently been accepting applications that fall before the cut-off of the “Dates for Filing” chart, this is subject to change.
Despite informed estimates, Visa Bulletin movements can be unpredictable. It is critical for clients to file their applications to adjust status or to respond to National Visa Center letters regarding Immigrant Visa appointments as soon as they are eligible to do so.
The Immigration and Nationality team at Stevens & Lee closely monitors and reports on movements and predictions related to the monthly Visa Bulletin. Please contact us if you have any questions specific to your own Permanent Residency Application or how the Visa Bulletin may affect your business.