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How to Read the Monthly Visa Bulletin Published by the USCIS

Outside of visas intended for tourism, the numbers of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas issued by the United States Department of State are numerically limited. Federal law directs this agency to work with the Department of Homeland Security to calculate the maximum number of visas, and the per-country limits established by this calculation are based on no more than 7 percent of visas issued to a sole nation and no more than 2 percent issued to territories and principalities of foreign nations. 

In addition to the aforementioned per-country limits, there may be econometric considerations made with regard to the number of nonimmigrant visas issued for work purposes. In July 2015, executive actions taken by former U.S. President Barack Obama directed Citizenship and Immigration Services to revise the visa availability process, and this resulted in adjustments to the format of the monthly visa bulletin, which now publishes periods based on petition approvals and labor certifications issued by the Program Electronic Review Management system. The experienced immigration attorneys from KS Visa Law, a trusted provider of immigration services in San Diego, offer these guidelines for understanding the visa bulletin.

Each visa bulletin includes two sets of charts: one indicates final action dates for family-sponsored petitions, and the other is for employment-based visa applications. Each chart shows final action dates as well as filing dates. In the case of individuals from countries that are oversubscribed in terms of per-country visa limits, the final action dates published indicate that immigrants who filed petitions prior to said dates will receive priority processing of green cards. For example, the February 2019 visa bulletin stated 1 December 2016 as the final action date for spouses of permanent residents from China. 

Each month, it’s crucial to check the following link:

Here, you’ll find the chart you need to use for that particular month for both family-based and employment-based filings. The page will state whether you need to use the Final Action Dates chart, which helps you determine when you can file your adjustment of status application, or the Dates for Filing chart, which lets you know if there are more visas available for a fiscal year than there are applicants.

In the case of nonimmigrant visas issued for work purposes, final action and filing dates are also published, but there’s also the matter of employment-based preferences to consider. There are five preference categories, the second one being skilled workers holding advanced degrees, and the February 2019 visa bulletin indicated that workers from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and Vietnam didn’t have any restrictions in terms of visa issuance for qualified applicants. Religious workers from these countries weren’t authorized to present filings during this period. 

The dates published on the visa bulletin can be used to determine realistic time frames as to when applications or petitions will be approved. For example, an adjustment of status filing may only take a few weeks or months to be approved if the visa was issued on or prior to the final action date. As for Program Electronic Review Management certifications required by employment-based applications, sponsoring companies can also estimate how long they should wait for issuance based on the final action dates. 

China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines are nations that often appear on the visa bulletin because many of their citizens submit immigration filings. Applicants from these nations should consult immigration law firms to find out how the information posted on the visa bulletin may affect their petitions and applications.

If you need more information about visas, make sure to seek the advice of experienced immigration lawyers. San Diego residents should reach out to the knowledgeable immigration attorneys at KS Visa Law. We can assist you with a wide variety of issues related to immigration, including employment and family immigration. Call us today at 858-874-0711 to schedule a consultation.

May 2024