Summer Green Card Series: What is the Visa Bulletin?

Often times, the first question asked by employment-based Green Card beneficiaries during an initial strategy consultation is, “How long until I have my Green Card in hand?”  While the answer varies depending on the particular Green Card strategy and the candidate’s country of birth, the Visa Bulletin is always a factor that must be considered.  Particularly for Indian and Chinese nationals, Visa Bulletin backlogs can delay issuance of a Green Card for many years.  In some cases, the wait can be nearly a decade.  In this post, we explain the Visa Bulletin’s function.  In our third installment of the Summer Green Card Series, we will cover how to read the Visa Bulletin and answer common questions related to the Visa Bulletin.

What is the Visa Bulletin?

To understand the Visa Bulletin, it is important to first understand why it was created.  The number of Green Cards available each year is limited, with 140,000 Green Cards available for employment-based beneficiaries.  Employment-based Green Cards are broken into five (5) categories:  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); and EB-5 (Employment Creation i.e. Entrepreneurs).  Each category has different requirements that must be satisfied to qualify.

Each employment-based category is allotted a certain percentage of the available annual Green Cards according to the following table:

Employment-Based Green Card Category

Percentage of Annual Allotment Available for Category

EB-1 28.6%
EB-2 28.6%
EB-3 28.6%
EB-4 7.1%
EB-5 7.1%

In order to establish a Green Card applicant from a backlogged country’s “place in line” to receive a Green Card, the immigration office assigns what is known as a “Priority Date.”  The Priority Date is typically the date on which the beneficiary files the first-step in their particular Green Card process.  For EB-1 and certain EB-2 applicants, the Priority Date is the date on which an I-140 Petition is filed on their behalf with the immigration office.  For almost all other employment-based Green Card beneficiaries, the Priority Date is the date on which an employer files a PERM Application on their behalf.Not only are the amount of Green Cards available to each employment-based category limited, but the number of Green Cards available to foreign nationals from a particular country are limited as well.  Currently, the per country limit is set at 7% of the available Green Cards each year.  Therefore, if, in a given year, too many foreign nationals from a particular country apply for a Green Card in a given category, a backlog exists and any applicant from a backlogged country that applies after the quota has been reached must wait until the next year’s quota is available to receive a Green Card.

Ultimately, the Visa Bulletin is simply a tool used by the Department of State and USCIS to tell applicants whether a Green Card is available (meaning they can proceed with filing the final step in the Green Card process known as the Adjustment of Status Application) or if they are subject to a backlog and must wait until their Priority Date is current before filing.

Each month the Department of State issues two (2) different Visa Bulletin Charts for employment-based Green Cards:  the Dates for Filing Chart and the Final Action Dates Chart.  USCIS then looks at the number of visas available in the current fiscal year and issues a notice to potential applicants regarding which chart to use for filing purposes.  The USCIS notice is posted here:

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