What is the Visa Bulletin?
The Visa Bulletin is issued by the Department of State every month. The U.S. Government can only issue a limited number of Green Cards every year: 226,000 for Family-Based immigrants and 140,000 for Employment- Based immigrants. The law limits how many can be used for each country and each category. However, there may be additional visas in some fiscal years, as unused visa numbers from the prior fiscal year can get carried over to the next fiscal year. The Visa Bulletin is issued to keep track of visa numbers and to give you a tool to determine when you can file your case and when your case can be approved.
How to Use the Visa Bulletin:
If you check the October 2020 Visa Bulletin, the top row lists countries and the left-hand column lists visa categories, like F1 or EB2. Your Priority Date is listed on your I-140 Approval Notice. You take that date and your category and look in the box under your Country of Birth and across to your visa category. If the date in the box comes after your date, then you may be able to file your case. The Department of State now publishes 2 tables - Final Action or Filing Dates charts. A person is not eligible to file a Form I-485 until the Visa Bulletin shows that his or her Priority Date is Current. Even though you use the Visa Bulletin to know if your Priority Date is Current, you are only allowed to file the I-485 Adjustment Application using the Filing Dates Chart when USCIS decides that it is permitted. The Visa Bulletin has a link to the USCIS website - www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo - where they post the Adjustment of Status Filing Charts. If USCIS lists the Filing Dates Chart and someone’s Priority Date is current based on it, then they can file their Form I-485.
Why the sudden movement in numbers?
The October Visa Bulletin shows forward movement of visa numbers because they have unused numbers from Family-based immigration visas in Financial Year 2020 due to Consulate closures (Covid-19) and the Travel bans enacted by the Trump administration. With the continuation of the Trump administration’s travel bans and restrictions on travel and international movement because of COVID-19, the limited usage of Family-Based immigrant visa numbers by Consulates may continue. This will continue a trend of increasing Employment- Based immigrant visa numbers.
Next Month's Visa Bulletin
A new Visa Bulletin is issued every month. If the new Visa Bulletin shows that your Priority Date is not Current then: the Consulate cannot approve your Green Card, you cannot file your Form I-485, and USCIS cannot approve your filed application. For example, if your Priority Date is Current in October 2020, then you can file your Form I-485 with USCIS in October 2020. However, if the November 2020 Visa Bulletin changes and your Priority Date has retrogressed, then your Form I-485 cannot be accepted by USCIS or approved by USCIS until the Priority Date becomes current again.
We are closely monitoring the monthly Visa Bulletin and encourage you to contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-981-8421 if you have any questions.