The February 2017 Visa Bulletin has been released by the U.S. Department of State. View the February Visa Bulletin here. The visa bulletin is published monthly, usually about 2 weeks in advance of the next month. The dates listed in the bulletin are current priority dates for the various visa categories. Further, the individual priority date appears on the receipt notices and the approval notice for the visa petition.
The bulletin indicates when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit required documentation to the National Visa Center. Unless stated otherwise on the USCIS website, individuals seeking to file for adjustment of status must use the "Final Action Dates" charts for determining when they can file applications. Applicants for immigrant visas who have a priority date earlier than the application date in the chart may assemble and submit required documents.
First, there are a limited number of employment-based immigrant visas (“green cards”) available each year, and they are divided between several different preference categories. The worldwide level for employment-based preference immigrants each year is 140,000. Further, each sending country can account for no more than 7% of that 140,000.
The backlog occurs when there are more qualified applications for a preference category than there are available visa numbers. Therefore, the backlog results in a long, unpredictable wait for permanent resident status for many individuals.
The Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs publishes the monthly Visa Bulletin on their website under the Visas section.