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Understanding the State Department’s Monthly Visa Bulletin

245333_3375.jpgThe U.S. Department of State (DOS) released its Visa Bulletin for August 2012 on July 31, listing the priority dates for family- and employment-based immigrant visas. These are the visas for people intending to immigrate to the United States and obtain legal permanent residence. The Visa Bulletin provides important information for people who are awaiting a decision on an immigration petition that is subject to an annual quota. Certain immigrant visa petitions, such as U.S. citizens petitioning for an immigrant spouse or minor child, are not subject to a numerical limitation, so they are not included in the monthly Visa Bulletin.

The two major types of immigrant visas listed in the Visa Bulletin are family-based petitions subject to a quota and employment-based petitions. Once a petitioner, typically a U.S. citizen relative, permanent resident family member, or prospective employer, files a petition, the immigrant, known as the “beneficiary,” receives a “priority date.” This indicates the date the government accepted the petition. Different types of petitions receive different preferences from DOS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Immigration law also restricts the number of visas available from any particular country in a given year. As a result, the waiting periods, indicated by the priority date, vary depending on the type of petition and, in some cases, the immigrant’s country of origin.


DOS divides family-based petitions into five categories. The first preference category, “F1,” applies to the unmarried adult children, meaning age 21 or older, of U.S. citizens. The number of visas in this preference category is capped at 23,400 per year, plus any not covered by the quota for the other categories. The second category, “F2,” further divided into “A” and “B” groups, actually has a higher quota number, and includes spouses, minor children, and adult children of permanent residents. The remaining categories consist of married children and siblings of U.S. citizens.

Because of the high number of visa petitions for nationals of the People’s Republic of China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines, DOS tracks the priority dates for each of those countries separately. The waiting period for a F1 beneficiary from Mexico may therefore be substantially different from a beneficiary for an identical petition from another country. In the current Visa Bulletin, the listed priority date for China, India, and most other countries for the F1 category is August 1, 2005. For Mexico, it is June 8, 1993.


For employment-based petitions, the first priority, “EB1,” goes to workers of “extraordinary ability,” or certain academicians or executives. This category does not require a labor certification from the government, but the other categories, “EB2” through “EB5,” require certification from the Department of Labor before a petition can be filed. Many of the preference categories for employment are “current” as of the August 2012 Visa Bulletin, as indicated by a “C” in place of a priority date, meaning that there is no significant backlog of petitions under review by the government. For some categories or countries, a “U” indicates that data is not available. Additional waiting periods may apply to employment-based petitions as to family-based petitions for the same four high-volume countries.

Samuel C. Berger, P.C. helps immigrants seeking visas to work for a New York or New Jersey business, and helps businesses petition for skilled immigrant employees. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today, contact us online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Almost Half of the Applications for H1-B Visas are from Computer Companies; New York Leads the Demand for Skilled Immigrants, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 19, 2012
Controversy Surrounds the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa “Summer Work Travel” Program, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 5, 2012
New York Company Joins Federal Immigration Compliance Program, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, May 4, 2012
Photo credit: ‘British Passports’ by as012a2569 on stock.xchng.