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The Visa Bulletin Explained

Directly above photograph of an application for a visa.

Applying for a visa to come to the U.S., whether for employment or family reasons, can involve a long wait, full of uncertainty and anxiety. One of the tools available to help you manage your stress and expectations during this time is the monthly Visa Bulletin published by the U.S. Department of State. Read on to learn more about what the Visa Bulletin is, how it works and how to use it to your advantage. For help with employment or family visas, applying for immigration benefits, or other critical issues, contact Queens Immigration Law to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable U.S. immigration attorney.

Understanding the Visa Bulletin

The Visa Bulletin serves as a guide for determining when a visa is available for applicants in the different immigrant categories. The U.S. has a cap on the number of immigrant visas available each year, making the Visa Bulletin a vital resource for both family-sponsored and employment-based petitions.

The bulletin is divided into two main sections: Family-Sponsored Preferences and Employment-Based Preferences. Each section lists various categories and their corresponding cut-off dates, which are essentially the priority dates. Your priority date is the date when your petition was initially filed. If your priority date is before the cut-off date listed in the Visa Bulletin, your visa is available for processing.

Family-Sponsored Preferences

This section is for those who have family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents sponsoring their immigration to the United States. It includes categories like:

  • F1: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • F2: Spouses and children, and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents
  • F3: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • F4: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens

Employment-Based Preferences

This section applies to individuals being sponsored by U.S. employers or those who are entrepreneurs willing to invest in the U.S. economy. Categories include:

  • EB-1: Priority workers
  • EB-2: Professionals holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability
  • EB-3: Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers
  • EB-4: Special immigrants (including certain religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, alien minors who are wards of courts in the United States, and others)
  • EB-5: Immigrant Investors

Using the Visa Bulletin

The Visa Bulletin displays cut-off dates in a month/year format. These dates indicate the visa availability for applicants within each category. It’s crucial to monitor these dates closely, as they can move forward, remain static, or sometimes retrogress, depending on the number of visa applications received and the annual caps.

To effectively use the Visa Bulletin, follow these steps:

  1. Identify Your Category: Determine whether you fall under family-sponsored or employment-based preferences and identify your specific category.

  2. Check Your Priority Date: Find the priority date on your I-130 or I-140 petition receipt. This date is when USCIS received your petition and is crucial for tracking your place in line.

  3. Compare Priority Date to Cut-off Dates: Each month, compare your priority date to the cut-off dates listed in the Visa Bulletin for your category. If your priority date is earlier than the cut-off date, you are eligible to apply for your visa or adjust your status if you are already in the U.S.

  4. Prepare for Application: Once your priority date becomes current, meaning your date is before the cut-off date, you should begin preparing your visa application or adjustment of status application immediately. This includes gathering the necessary documents and following the specific instructions for your visa category.

  5. Monitor for Changes: Visa availability can change month to month. It’s important to continuously check the Visa Bulletin for any updates or changes to your category.

In New York, Contact Queens Immigration Law for Help With Visas and Other Immigration Legal Matters

The Visa Bulletin is a critical tool for anyone navigating the U.S. immigration process through family or employment-based petitions. By understanding how to interpret and use this monthly publication, you can better manage your immigration journey. However, given the complexities of U.S. immigration law and the nuances of interpreting visa availability, consulting with an experienced immigration law firm like Queens Immigration Law can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout your process.

For personalized assistance and to ensure your immigration matters are handled with the utmost care and expertise, call Queens Immigration Law at 718-793-7800 in New York or toll-free at 800-339-0535. Our team is dedicated to guiding clients through the intricacies of the U.S. immigration system, leveraging our extensive knowledge and experience to help achieve your immigration goals.

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