Mira Law Group

Visa Bulletin - What Is and How To Read It?

What is the Visa Bulletin?

It is a document published every month by the U.S. Department of State, which governs the waiting time for a relative, who is NOT an immediate relative, who qualifies for residency through a family-based petition.

The bulletin provides priority dates for each category and country of origin, determining when an alien with an approved immigrant petition may apply for an immigrant visa or adjust status.

What is a priority date?

A priority date is a specific date assigned to an immigrant visa application when it is received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or DOS. The priority date is used to determine a person’s place in the visa queue.

What are the visa categories?

The visa bulletin is divided into the following list of categories:

  • F1: Unmarried children over 21 years of age of U.S. Citizens.
  • F2A: Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of Lawful Permanent Residents.
  • F2B: Unmarried children over 21 years of age of Lawful Permanent Residents.
  • F3: Married children of U.S. Citizens.
  • F4: Siblings of U.S. Citizens.

How should the visa bulletin be read?

1. As a first step, you should determine what your priority date is: this can be found on the form “I-797, Notice of Action”,which is issued when an application or petition is approved.

It is important to know which category your application belongs to, you will be able to see it in the” Notice Type” section of your “I-797, Notice of Action” form. With this information you can visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website or review our updated newsletter.

2. Look for the appropriate visa bulletin: You should review the visa bulletin and locate the box that pertains to the specific family-based preference category that applies to you.

3. Check the priority date for your category: Locate your country of origin in the table and check the date you filed your immigrant application. Priority dates indicate when your application was filed and determine your position on the waiting list.

4. Compare your priority date with the cut-off date: The cut-off date determines who is eligible to apply for a visa, based on your priority date. If your priority date is before the cut-off date indicated in the bulletin for your category and country, you may file a visa application. If your priority date is after the cut-off date, you must wait until your priority date is adjusted before you can apply for a visa.

5. Stay informed through the bulletin: Visa availability and deadlines may change from month to month, so it is essential to check the bulletin periodically to stay abreast of your eligibility.