The Visa Bulletin is published monthly and shows the wait times for different categories of immigrant visas.
Because Congress limits the number of visas issued each year, many immigrants must wait for a visa to be issued.
When a U.S. citizen or permanent resident files a petition for an immigrant, the beneficiary of the petition is placed on a waiting list and given a “priority date.” When comparing their priority date to the Visa Bulletin, beneficiaries of visa petitions can get a rough idea of how long they may need to wait before having a visa issued.
The Visa Bulletin is useful because it makes these numbers available to you and will help you as you plan for the future.
How to Use the Visa Bulletin
First, you should find out whether you even need to wait in line.
For example, some family members of U.S. citizens are considered immediate relatives. Because an unlimited number of immediate relatives may immigrate each year, there is no line, and you do not need to keep track of your place in line through the visa bulletin.
However, if you fit under a category where Congress has imposed annual visa limits, you may need to wait until your priority date is current. Your priority date will be noted on the approval notice you or your family member receives from USCIS. Essentially, your priority date is the date the beneficiary immigrant was placed in line.
Because some visa lines move faster than others, you need to figure out which category your petition falls under. For example, did a family member or an employer petition for you?
Figuring out which category your visa falls under will enable you to read the visa bulletin as it applies to you.
When you look at the visa bulletin, visa categories are generally marked with different symbols that indicate the availability of certain visas. “U” means “Unavailable” and that the number of visas allotted in that category has been reached. Alternatively, “C” signifies “Current” and there is no excess of applicants attempting to gain that particular visa.
Often, the visa bulletin will have a date instead of a “C” or “U.” If your priority date is a date earlier than the date displayed then you should take action on your approved petition. If, however, your priority date is a date after the date listed for your category on the Visa Bulletin then you must continue to wait in line.