General Questions about the Visa Bulletin

What is the Department of State Visa Bulletin?

Through the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Congress established limits on specific classifications of immigrant visas Family-based immigration (except for those qualifying for immediate relative classification), employment-based immigration, and diversity visa immigration are numerically limited based upon country of birth.

The Visa Bulletin, which is published monthly by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, summarizes the availability of immigrant visas during a specific month for each of the respective preference categories by posting current priority dates for each family-based, employment-based and diversity visa based category. Consular officers and USCIS adjustment officers are required to report to the Department of State the number of qualified applicants approved for numerically limited visas on a monthly basis. Only applicants who have a priority date earlier than that which appears on the current Visa Bulletin (the cut off date) may be processed for permanent residency (allocated an immigrant visa number).

The rows found in each table correspond to the respective categories of family and employment-based sponsorship, and in the Diversity Visa table, they respond to the respective geographical regions from which applicants are pulled. The last four columns of the first two tables correlate to countries determined to have particularly high U.S. immigration rates including: China, India, Mexico and the Philippines. Accordingly, applicants from these countries are sometimes subject to priority date restrictions that are different from those facing other countries based on historical immigration rates.

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Family Sponsored Preferences are as follows:

First Preference: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens.

Second Preference: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents.

a) Spouses and Children;

b) Unmarried Sons and Daughters.

Third Preference: Married Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older).

Fourth Preference: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens.

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Employment Based Preferences are as follows:

1st Preference: Priority Workers.

2nd Preference: Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability.

3rd Preference: Professionals (holding a minimum of a bachelor’s degree), skilled workers, and Other Workers.

4th Preference: Certain Special Immigrants.

5th Preference: Employment Creation.

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