What is the Visa Bulletin and how often is it released?
The Visa Bulletin is produced monthly by the United States Department of State (“DOS”) to indicate when statutorily limited family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant visas are available for issuance based on priority dates. It attempts to ensure that all available visas are distributed to eligible applicants. The fiscal year (“FY”) ends on September 30, so the October Visa Bulletin is the first of the new FY.
Each month, the Visa Bulletin contains two charts: Dates for Filing chart and Final Action chart. The Dates for Filing chart showcases when applicants can file their applications, whereas the Final Action chart showcases when visas are available for a particular category. In other words, if an applicant’s priority date is “current” on the Dates for Filing chart but not the Final Action chart, that applicant can file their application, but the application will not be processed until their priority date is also current on the Final Action chart. To complicate matters, sometimes USCIS decides they do not want to use the Dates for Filing chart. When this happens, applicants can only file if their date is current on the Final Action chart.
What do the employment-based categories correspond to?
There are five employment-based categories through which one can qualify for an immigrant visa, aptly named EB-1 through EB-5. The descriptions for each category are defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), which was originally passed by Congress in 1952, and are listed below:
- EB-1: priority workers
- EB-2: members of the professions holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability
- EB-3: skilled workers, professionals, and other workers
- EB-4: certain special immigrants, including religious workers, juveniles, certain broadcasters, certain military officials, etc.
- EB-5: investors involved in employment creation
How are the numerical limits distributed amongst the categories?
The numerical limits are determined by section 203(b) of the INA. Under this statute, EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 categories each receive 28.6% of the overall limit, and EB-4 and EB-5 categories each receive 7.1% of the overall limit. The total employment-based limit is 140,000 plus the unused family-sponsored visas from the previous FY. In other words, if there were unused family-sponsored visas in the previous FY, they are distributed to the employment-based categories in these same percentage divisions.
Why do nationals of some countries wait longer than nationals of other countries?
U.S. law sets a limit on the number of green cards it gives out to immigrants from each country. Applicants are matched to their country of birth, not country of nationality and no country can receive more than 7% of the 140,000+ employment-based visas available each year.
What new developments were announced in the October bulletin?
Final action dates across most employment-based categories advanced, reflecting October as the start of the new FY.
USCIS is accepting Adjustment of Status (“AOS”) applications based on the Dates for Filing chart for both family-sponsored and employment-based categories.
Finally, it is estimated that an additional 25,000 employment-based visas will become available for FY2024 from FY2023’s unused family-sponsored visas.
Please don’t hesitate to contact Zulkie Partners if you have questions related to your employment-based category or eligibility for an immigrant visa.