Every month, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) issues a visa bulletin that forwards information detailing the availability of immigrant visa numbers. The U.S. limits the number of international employees who may permanently immigrate in employment-based (EB), family-based (FB), and diversity lottery (DL) categories with subcategories within each grouping.
Explaining Visa Bulletins
Every case for a visa applicant has critical attendant dates that determine whether the petitioner will obtain a visa and if so, when they will obtain that visa. The timeline related to obtaining a U.S. work visa continually evolves, and the Visa Bulletins showcases this evolution. An immigration case’s initial eligibility is determined by its priority date, which reflects its filing date with either the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the Department of Labor (DOL).
This priority date serves as a case’s placeholder in the work visa queue. To remain current, a visa petition must have a priority date that falls before the final action date listed in the current month’s Visa Bulletin. Each month’s forthcoming Visa Bulletin provides visa applicants with critical information related to their visa bids.
The route to obtaining a work visa is directly related to being in a visa category that’s marked as current in the monthly bulletin. If a category is marked with a C for current, it means there are enough visas available within that specific category (and from that specific country of chargeability, or country of origin) for each approved petitioner.
To break it down more precisely, this means that when a qualified visa petitioner finds a C in the Visa Bulletin for their visa category and country of origin, that petitioner qualifies to be issued that category of visa. If the petitioner instead finds a date listed in the Visa Bulletin, it means their priority date must precede that posted final action date to qualify for visa issuance.
The current administration’s expressed preference for adopting a merit-based immigration system makes monitoring these monthly bulletins especially pertinent as we move forward.
February 2018 EB Visas
The February 2018 Visa Bulletin provides an overview of all Final Action Dates for EB visas within each country. In February, once again, the categories for Certain Religious Workers and for 5th Regional Center (for all listed countries) are classified as “U.” As such, there were no visa numbers issued in these categories.
All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed
In February’s Visa Bulletin, the priority dates for all countries that aren’t listed on the Visa Bulletin remain – for the fifth month running – current in all categories.
China – Mainland Born
- EB-1 and EB-4 both remain current
- EB-2 advances by almost two months to October 1, 2013
- EB-3 advances five months to September 15, 2014
- The Other Workers category moves ahead 10 days to February 1, 2007
- EB-1 remains current (as does its EB-4)
- EB-2 continues to inch ahead with a 16-day advancement (December 8, 2008)
- EB-3 and Other Workers push forward a full month (December 1, 2006)
- EB-1, the EB-2, and the EB-4 remain current
- EB-3 and Other Workers experience a two-week advancement to March 1, 2016
Mexico and El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
These countries all remain current across all categories – with two exceptions:
- El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras remain at December 1, 2015
- Mexico sees a 21-day jump to June 22, 2016, for EB-4
The February Visa Bulletin also includes several notable projections for potential movement through April and May of 2018:
- EB-1 visas are expected to remain Current across the board.
- EB-2 visas are expected to be Current for all countries – with the exceptions that China should experience a bump of several months each month and that India should see an advancement of up to two weeks each month.
- EB-3 visas are expected to be Current for all countries – with the exceptions that China should leap forward about five months per month, that India should gain one to three months per month, and that the Philippines should advance up to one month per month.
- EB-4 visas are predicted to be Current for all countries – with the exceptions that El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras should see a boost of about three weeks per month and that Mexico should experience some “forward movement.”
While the February Visa Bulletin highlights no dramatic changes, that’s not to say there are no such changes coming. These are potentially volatile times – as they relate to employment immigration – and the DOS’s monthly Visa Bulletins are a useful tool for gauging what could be coming.
Should you have any questions about how this impacts your business or employees, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or hear from our clients about how we've helped them navigate their immigration compliance.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.