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Visa Bulletin: What Does It Mean?

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2014 | Immigration |

When immigrant visas are not yet available to be distributed to immigrants, the United States State Department (DOS) issues a monthly Visa Bulletin to allocate the available immigrant visa numbers based on the usage each month. This is a type of tracking mechanism which gives a general idea of backlogs for visas used up already.  Monitoring the priority date becomes extremely important to determine when the alien applicant is eligible to obtain an immigrant

The Visa Bulletin is updated monthly and lists the availability of “immigrant numbers” during that particular month. It is informative to let you know about whether visas are  immediately available for certain immigrant categories.. The Visa Bulletin is generally issued in the second or third week of each month indicating the visa number availability in next month. Family based immigrant visas, employment based immigrant visas and Diversity based immigrant visas are the primary categories on the Visa Bulletin.

A priority date is assigned when the alien files an immigrant application, It shows up on the left top section of the I-797 Notice of Action form on immigration application.  It is usually the same or close in time to the date of filing the application. If your Application/Petition has not been approved, you will need to wait for the approval notice to find out when is your official priority date.  Reviewing the Visa Bulletin is sometimes a bit tricky. It is necessary to determine what category the petition falls under.  Then you will check to see if your priority date may be current. 

Generally, the priority dates do not typically advance monthly. It depends on how many applications are filed at the same time as your application.  There can be backwards and forward fluctuations so it is never possible to accurately predict when a case may be current.  However, when determining whether to file a case where the priority dates are backlogged, it does make sense to file sooner than later, as you can fairly predict there may be a long wait, many years, perhaps to wait, so filing sooner than later is always desirable.

Unfortunately if you file a case prior to the priority date becoming current, you do not typically get a refund on your fees you paid. Instead, you will get a letter, or perhaps attend an interview only to learn that your case was not current.  In some instances, you may also receive a referral to removal proceedings.  Therefore, it is extremely important to obtain competent legal representation to properly assess whether your case qualifies as a current case prior to filing applications for immigration benefits.