The Visa Bulletin Explained

For many immigrants to the United States, their lives are ruled by the Visa Bulletin, the important Department of State document that will dictate when they are able to finally apply for permanent residency, many after years of waiting.  This post will explain what exactly the Visa Bulletin is, who is subject to it, and how it works.

What is the Visa Bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin is a document issued by the Department of State every month that tracks visa numbers and quota availabilities by priority dates to determine when someone in a particular visa category can immigrate to the United States by either filing an adjustment of status application (if they are in the US) or pursuing an immigrant visa by consular processing (if they are outside of the US).

You can find the link to the monthly Visa Bulletin on the Department of State website here.

What is a priority date?

A priority date is the date assigned to an immigrant beneficiary that will help him or her track her case.  Simply put, it is the date that the I-130 or I-140 petition is received by USCIS (or, in certain cases, the date the PERM labor certification is filed), regardless of when that petition is later adjudicated or approved.

There are 5 categories of family-based immigration tracking priority dates- F1, F2A, F2B, F3, and F4/. F1 is adult unmarried children of US citizens, F2A is spouses and minor children (under 21 and unmarried) of lawful permanent residents or green card holders.  F2B is adult unmarried children of permanent residents (21 and older), F3 is married children of US citizens, and F4 is siblings of US citizens. The chart shown below is for the April 2020 Visa Bulletin.

There are 8 categories of employment-based immigration tracking priority dates- EB1, EB2, EB3, other workers, EB4, certain religious workers, EB5 non-regional center, and EB5 regional center.  The chart shown below is for the April 2020 Visa Bulletin.