Understanding the Visa Bulletin

Understanding the Visa Bulletin

As we begin a new month, the new visa bulletin is in effect for employment-based (EB) and family-based (FB) green card filings. For individuals unfamiliar with the visa bulletin, terms such as priority date, current, and retrogression can seem confusing when trying to determine the appropriate time to file.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin each month to demonstrate the predicted visa availability based on annual per-country statutory limits. The bulletin describes whether a particular visa is available, which determines if an individual can file for a green card during the upcoming month. For employment-based cases, an individual receives a priority date when the PERM is filed with the Department of Labor or when the I-140 is filed with USCIS. Family-based cases are assigned priority dates when the I-130 is filed and accepted by USCIS. (The exception to family-based applications is for U.S. citizens filing for an immediate relative such as a spouse, parent, or minor child: there isn’t a priority date since that category has no visa cap, so you can file for the green card at any time.)

The priority date is important to remember when you check the visa bulletin each month. If your priority date is before the date listed in the appropriate category, you may be eligible to apply for a green card by filing form I-485. If there is a “C” listed under your country and employment or family-based category, then the category is current and visas are available immediately.

Sometimes we will see retrogression in the visa bulletin when too many people apply for the limited number of green cards available. The next month’s visa bulletin may fall back to an earlier date because the visa issuance has reached the per-country limitations.


First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

  1. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:  77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
  2. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents:  23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens:  65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.


First:  Priority Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.

Second:  Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability:  28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.

Third:  Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers:  28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, not more than 10,000 of which to “*Other Workers”.

Fourth:  Certain Special Immigrants:  7.1% of the worldwide level.

Fifth:  Employment Creation:  7.1% of the worldwide level, not less than 3,000 of which reserved for investors in a targeted rural or high-unemployment area, and 3,000 set aside for investors in regional centers by Sec. 610 of Pub. L. 102-395.

Note: Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, such as spouses, children (unmarried and under 21 years of age), and parents (of U.S. citizens over 21 years of age) need not wait for a visa to become available. There is no category on the visa bulletin because these visas are unlimited and always available.

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