Another month brings forward a new Visa Bulletin. Each month the Department of State (DOS) publishes a bulletin that delineates the availability of employment-based (EB), family-based (FB), and diversity lottery (DV) visa numbers, and because these bulletins provide critical information related to visa availability, they’re worth examining.
The Visa Bulletin gives sponsored foreign nationals a current timetable for taking the final step in the journey toward obtaining a green card. Permanent immigration in America is based on a delicate calculus that’s guided by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and that determines visa number limitations, including per-country and per-category limitations.
Keeping It Straight
There are several dates related to every immigration case that are critical to each petitioner’s ability to obtain a visa, and these dates are highlighted in the monthly visa bulletins. A case’s eligibility is determined by its initiation date with the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) or Department of Labor (DOL), which marks its priority date (think of it as a place in line for an initial filing). To remain current, an applicant’s priority date must predate the posted final action date listed on the bulletin.
When a visa category is listed as ‘current’ in the bulletin, enough visa numbers remain for every approved petitioner in that specific category, and country of chargeability (country of origin), to be issued an immigrant visa. Thus, if a country’s visa category lists with a C on the bulletin, all qualified applicants within that category are authorized for visa issuance. If a date is provided, instead of a C, the petitioners in that category must have a priority date that comes before the final action date listed.
March Trends for Employment-Based Visas
In March, forward movement is limited across the board. For the sixth month in a row, every country not specifically listed remains current in each category.
There are, however, a few exceptions in the March Visa Bulletin that are worth reviewing:
China (Mainland Born)
For China, the EB-1 remains current; the EB-2 jumps forward another two months to December 8, 2013; the EB-3 similarly advances to November 15, 2014; and the Other Workers category is forwarded a month to March 1, 2007.
Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
All these countries remain current across all categories with two exceptions: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are holding steady with an EB-4 date of December 1, 2015; and Mexico’s EB-4 date inches ahead an additional 9 days to July 1, 2016.
While India’s EB-1 remains current, its EB-2 date crept forward a week to December 15, 2008, and its EB-3 and Other Workers category pushed ahead an additional month to January 1, 2007.
The EB-1 and EB-2 for the Philippines are still current, and the EB-3 and EB-4 both advanced to May 1, 2016 – a two-month bump for the EB-3 and a fall from current for the EB-4.
In the world of visas, March held relatively steady. The new administration’s push for merit-based immigration and the attendant immigration climate, however, make watching these monthly bulletins even more critical.