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What is a Visa Bulletin & How Does It Affect Me?

By Michael Brooks-Jimenez

One of the biggest worries for anyone involved in applying for an adjustment of status is the date to file, especially if you are on an employment-based or family-sponsored visa. If you apply too early, you have to face the whole process again. If you apply too late, you may miss out on the limited number of visas available. Fortunately, the Department of State and the USCIS have teamed up to create a Visa Bulletin that lists the appropriate dates. 

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What Are Visa Bulletins?

The visa bulletins provide timing guidelines for foreign nationals seeking to visit & enter the United States.

In 2015, the Administration issued a report about streamlining the immigration system, and the USCIS and DOS began working together to revamp their processes for determining how many visas were still available in a fiscal year.

Their restructuring led to introducing two new charts to the visa bulletins. The bulletins allow foreign nationals to know if and when they should apply for a visa.

What Charts Are In the Bulletin?

The first chart is the Application Final Action Chart. This is the listing of when different types of visas may become available. 

The second chart is called the Dates For Filing Applications, and this lists the earliest dates that you can apply for your adjustment of status. 

These charts can help guide decision-making on when a person should turn in Form I-485.

Typically, by visiting the Department of State's website you may review the monthly visa bulletin. Scroll down to the chart and find the visa type on the far left hand side. The date that applies will be listed to on the right hand side, under your country of origin.

If there is a 'C' in that column, then anyone eligible can apply for the adjustment status because there isn't a backlog of visas for that country. Additionally, anyone can apply before the date listed if the priority date is earlier than the one listed. (This priority date is generally when your family member, employer or lawyer filed the visa petition.)

If there is a 'U,' there are no visas available.

These charts are created by combining the data on qualified applications that the Department of State has collected and the data on pending adjustments in status that the USCIS collects. This is then subtracted from the yearly total available to come up with which countries can send more people.

What are the Visa Limits?

The United States has imposed limits to certain types of visas. For this reason, the timing of an application can be critical. Figuring out the visa limits can sometimes prove difficult.

With family-sponsored visas, there is an upper limit of 500,000 people per year. For employment-based visas, that upper limit is 140,000. As a further complication, no country can contribute more than 7% of the total every year.

Certain countries produce a higher number of immigrants, and this leads to them being 'oversubscribed,' or out of visas for people from that particular country.

These countries include India, Mexico, China and the Philippines. They will generally have hard dates under them in the chart. All other countries are combined in one column to the immediate right of the visa type. 

The Visa Bulletins are there to help lawyers and immigration workers figure out how to get a visa to everyone who is eligible, but knowing this information can help anyone who wants to apply for a change of status.

If you are here on a family- or employer-sponsored visa, are thinking about applying for a change in status, and have questions, contact us. Michael Brooks-Jimenez, PC, has the legal expertise to help you navigate the immigration process.

Para leer esta nota en Español, haga clic aquí.