Visa bulletin is a monthly publication updated by the Department of State that controls the availability of immigrant visa numbers. It contains important information related to U.S. immigration. More specifically, the visa bulletin establishes cut-off dates for all employment-based and family-sponsored categories which are experiencing a shortage of visa numbers. Only applicants whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date may apply for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status to become a permanent resident (receive a green card).
A visa bulletin may appear simple, with just a few tables on the page. But what goes inside the visa bulletin is actually a very complicated process. Read on to see how visa bulletin works, including the concept of visa number "spill-over" which has been critical for employment-based immigration in recent years. You may also be interested in this easy-to-understand flow chart showing how cut-off dates are established each month by the Department of State's Visa Office.
Preference based immigration system sets an annual cap for the number of immigrants allowed each year, which ultimately determines the visa bulletin. However, the annual limits are not simple numbers; they are rather calculated based on complex formula set by various immigration laws. Here you will find a detailed explanation of how annual numerical limits and caps are established, for both employment-based and family sponsored categories, as well as green card lottery (diversity visa). You may also be interested in knowing how many green cards are actually issued per year, per preference category.
Visa retrogression is frankly the number one reason why most people are interested in visa bulletins. Unfortunately it has been quite severe for most EB2 and EB3 categories, and all family-based preferences. The retrogression tracker is an interactive chart that demonstrates the problem for EB-2 and EB-3, by displaying the wait time between cutoff dates and visa bulletin release dates for the past five years.
What date is visa bulletin released?
The Department of State usually releases new visa bulletin two to three weeks ahead. For example, July Visa Bulletin is most likely published between June 10th and 15th. However, this is not a written rule and the Visa Office may release a new visa bulletin as early as the 8th, or as late as the 18th. There's no way to know exactly when, so we highly recommend that you sign up for our Visa Bulletin Alert - it's free and only requires your email address.
What does current mean in visa bulletin?
In the visa bulletin, "current" means there is no backlog. If you're in a category designated as "Current," it means you don't have to wait.
If your preference category is subject to retrogression, but your priority date is prior to the cutoff date, this is also considered "current." In this case, your category is still backlogged, but your own priority date has become current.
What is final action date?
Final Action Date is a cutoff date set in the visa bulletin that controls visa number available. If your priority date is before the Final Action Date, your pending application is ready for approval.
Can I check my NVC Case Status Online?
Yes, if you already have a case number, you can check the status at the Department of State website here.
Note: If USCIS has not sent your immigration petition to the National Visa Center (NVC), you can only check the status with USCIS.