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How to Read the Visa Bulletin

  • POSTED: July 31, 2013
  • CATEGORY:
  • POSTED BY: LawrenceGruner

How to Read the Visa Bulletin

I am often asked the following questions:  What is the Visa Bulletin? and I am also asked How to read the visa bulletin?

The visa bulletin is a statement put out each month by the United States State Department. The visa bulletin sets up cut off dates for each category of visa applicants. Only those who have been assigned a date prior to the cutoff date provided for their category are eligible for a visa application in that month. This system is designed to control the amount of visas given out to immigrants each year. The need for these quotas to be met comes from the Immigration and Nationality Act which allocated a total amount of immigrants allowed within the U.S. Per year as well as limiting those numbers to only 7% per country.
The categories are initially split into family-sponsored visas and employment based visas. These two categories are then further divided into additional categories. In each category the countries China, the Philippines, Mexico, and India are set aside separately to ensure that the quotas are met for each of those countries as these countries generally contain the most applicants. In this manner the visa bulletin makes sure all of the quotas are met correctly for each country without exceeding the number of allowed visas per year for immigrants.
 
Visa Cut Off Dates
The visa cut off dates are established by the Visa Office which is a section of the Department of State. The Visa Office is given the authority by the government to control the number of visas given out as well as determine the cutoff numbers for the categories that contain too many applicants. The cutoff dates are determined by the Visa Office through reviewing data gathered from overseas consular offices and USCIS. Once this data is properly analyzed they compare it to the requests of visas from that specific countries categories and if necessary determine the appropriate cutoff date.
 
Quota System For Immigration
The visa bulletin and cut off Dates are determined from the quota system. The fiscal year runs from October 1st to September 30th. For this year the U.S. allocates a certain number of green cards and visas to be issued for each country and categories within this country. Based off of this data the numbers of visas to be awarded are determined for each month. The visa bulletin then based off these numbers sets cut off dates to make sure the correct amount in each category is met but not exceeded. This system is relatively good at ensuring that these numbers are properly met.
 
What Causes Priority Dates to Change?
Often during a month there will be more or less people than originally calculated who are given visas due to variability in numbers provided by the USCIS or other factors. When this happens they will make adjustments in the priority dates in the next month. For example if there are more visas given within a certain month than expected the priority date will be changed in the next month to account for this. If yearly totals in one category surpass the quota in a given category that category may become unavailable in the following year in order to balance out the quota amount. If there are less applicants in a certain category the unused spaces may also be given to other categories with too many applicants. This too is determined by the priority of the applicants.

The title of this blog post is: how to read the visa bulletin. The information provided on this site is not legal advice but general information only. Laws can and do change and additional laws may apply in your case. Lawrence Gruner is a fiance visa attorney, a fiancé visa lawyer, a green card attorney, and a Sacramento immigration attorney with almost 20 years of experience handling immigration cases.  He would be happy to talk to you about your immigration case.  He has office locations throughout California and handles cases throughout the United States and the World.  He may be reached at 888-801-6558


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