Explanation of the New Visa Bulletin Format
The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date, which is generally the date when the applicant’s relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on the applicant’s behalf with USCIS. Availability of an immigrant visa means eligible applicants are able to take one of the final steps in the process of becoming U.S. permanent residents.
However beginning in October, a new process has been implemented to provide more clarity to the immigrant visa and adjustment of status application filings. The new process is attempting to reflect President Obama’s November 2014 Immigration Executive Action to ensure that all available visa numbers per fiscal year are in fact used and that the system for determining immigrant visa availability is more predictable. The changes are expected to benefit intending US permanent resident applicants and to begin accounting for adjustment of status applications that were denied, abandoned, or withdrawn.
Each month, USCIS, in coordination with the Department of State, will monitor visa numbers and post the relevant charts described below. Applicants can then use the charts to determine when to file their immigrant visa or adjustment of status application. To determine whether additional visas are available, as requested by President Obama in November 2014, USCIS will compare the number of visas available for the remainder of the fiscal year with qualified visa applicants reported by the Department of State, pending adjustment of status applications reported by USCIS and the drop off rate which includes denied, withdrawn, and abandoned applications. Hopefully the new system will ensure that all available visas for each fiscal year are in fact used and issued to well-deserving intending immigrants.
From now on the monthly Visa Bulletin will now contain two charts per visa preference category for Family-based and Employment-based applicants.
The first chart is entitled Application Final Action Dates, which can also be interpreted as “Approval Cutoff Dates.” This chart lists the cutoff dates that determine when immigrant visa or adjustment of status applications may finally be approved and issued. For those applications to be approved and permanent residence granted, an applicant’s priority date must be before the relevant approval cutoff date listed on the chart.
The second chart is entitled Dates for Filing New Applications. This chart indicates when intending immigrants may be able to file their applications for adjustment of status or immigrant visa. For intending immigrants to be able to file their applications for adjustment of status or immigrant visa, their priority date must be before the relevant filing cutoff date listed on the chart.
As is apparent, there is a large disparity between September Visa Bulletin cutoff dates and the October filing cutoff dates (Chart #2 Dates for Filing New Applications) means that a large number of previously backlogged foreign nationals will newly become eligible to file immigrant visa or adjustment of status applications on October 1. With the large number of immigrant visa and adjustment of status applications being filed as a result of the change in priority dates, it is likely that it will cause a retrogression of filing dates in the Visa Bulletin posted in November. Thus, if you or a family member is eligible per the new October Visa Bulletin charts to file an immigrant visa or adjustment of status application it is recommended that you do so immediately.