March Visa Bulletin Available

The Department of State (DOS) recently released the March 2024 Visa Bulletin.

The Visa Bulletin, which is published by DOS each month, summarizes the availability of immigrant visas aka “green cards,” and indicates when some applicants are eligible to file form I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident based on their category, country of birth, and priority date.

How to Use the Visa Bulletin

The Visa Bulletin is used to determine when you can file and when to expect the case to be processed.

Here are important terms to know:

  • Priority Date: This is the “received date” of the I-130 or I-140 Immigrant Petition at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Or, if you have an I-140 Immigration petition based on the Labor Certification process, the priority date is the Labor Certification filing date, which will be earlier than the I-140 filing date. Your priority date can help determine how long you will need to wait if there is a backlog/waiting line for your category.
  • Cutoff Date: This is the date printed in the boxes of the Visa Bulletin if the category does not have a “C” for “current.”
  • Current: If you see a “C” in the box for your preference category, then that means that there are no waiting lines for your category.
  • “Dates for Filing” Chart: Individuals with priority dates earlier than the cutoff dates in the chart who are otherwise eligible are allowed to submit an I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident if they are in the United States. For individuals outside of the U.S. who have filed I-130 or I-140 petitions, the National Visa Center (NVC) will contact you by email to start the next steps of the immigration process.
  • “Final Actions Dates” Chart: This chart has the same function as the Dates for Filing Chart. Each month, USCIS will announce which chart to use for the following month. You can refer to this website for more details.

Applying these terms to the Visa Bulletin, you will see the top row lists several countries and the left-hand column lists the visa categories, such as F1 or EB2. To find your place on the Bulletin, you take your priority date and look in the box where your country of birth and visa category intersect.

Visa Bulletin Categories

Family-Sponsored Categories

  • First Preference (F1): Unmarried children aged 21 or older of U.S. citizens
  • Second Preference (F2A): Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of lawful permanent residents
  • Second Preference (F2B): Unmarried children aged 21 or older of lawful permanent residents
  • Third Preference (F3): Married children of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, if the U.S. citizen is aged 21 or older

Employment-Based Categories

  • Employment First Preference (E1): Priority worker and persons of extraordinary ability
    • Persons with extraordinary ability
    • Outstanding professors and researchers
    • Multinational managers or executives
  • Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals holding advanced degrees and persons of exceptional ability
  • Employment Third Preference (E3): Skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled (other) workers
  • Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain special immigrants
    • Broadcasters in the U.S.
    • Ministers of religion
    • Certain employees or former employees of the U.S. government abroad
    • Certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government
    • Certain former employees of the U.S. government in the Panama Canal Zone
    • Certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1st, 1979
    • Iraqi and Afghan interpreters/translators
    • Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have provided faithful and valuable service while employed or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq
    • Certain foreign medical graduates
    • Certain retired international organization employees

Certain unmarried children of international organization employees

  • Certain surviving spouses of deceased international organization employees
  • Special immigrant juveniles
  • Persons recruited outside of the U.S. who have served or enlisted to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Certain retired NATO-6 civilians
  • Certain unmarried children of NATO-6 civilians
  • Certain surviving spouses of deceased NATO-6 civilian employees
  • Persons who are beneficiaries of petitions of labor certifications filed prior to September 11, 2001, if the petition or application was rendered void due to a terrorist act
  • Employment Fifth Preference (E5): Immigrant investors

Each month, DOS adjusts these cutoff dates based on projected demand in each visa category. The projected demand is based on the number of applications pending or anticipated, as well as the number of immigrant visa applications in process at the U.S. consular posts abroad. DOS also takes into consideration the rate that applications have historically been denied, withdrawn, or abandoned.

If you are eligible for a green card based on a family relationship that is not listed above because you are the spouse or parent of a U.S. citizen aged 21 or older, the waiting lines on the visa bulletin do not apply to you. These family relationships are called “immediate relatives.”

Understanding the Visa Backlogs

There are a limited number of family and employment-based immigrant visas available each year, and they are divided between the categories. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets a worldwide level at 140,000 for annual employment-based preference immigrants and 226,000 for family-based category immigrants. Each country can receive no more than 7% of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,620.

Whenever there are more qualified applicants for a preference category than there are available visa numbers, the preference category will become oversubscribed, or “backlogged.” DOS then creates a “priority date cut off” for those oversubscribed categories. In some cases, it may be advisable to contact a lawyer to discuss alternate visas you could petition for.

An example of an oversubscribed preference category is that of F1 for India. The F1 category (first preference) is for unmarried adults (age 21 and over) who are children of U.S. citizens. Looking at the March 2024 Visa Bulletin, we would see that the cutoff date for that category is February 8, 2015 in the Final Action chart, and the cutoff date is September 1, 2017 in the Dates for Filing chart.

USCIS has updated its website to indicate which chart to use for March 2024. For family-sponsored filings, use the Dates for Filing chart in the visa bulletin. For employment-based filings, use the Final Action Dates chart. You can also visit this link to the USCIS website for additional help when determining when to file.

What to Expect

Unfortunately, movement in the cutoff dates is unpredictable. The dates move forward, backward (aka retrogression), or can stay the same from month-to-month based on demand for the visas and their processing speed.

The Visa Bulletin is published in the middle of each month and is available on the DOS website.

For More Information:

View March’s visa bulletin here.

View the prior (February) visa bulletin here.

This blog post does not serve as legal advice and does not establish any client-attorney privilege. Do not take any action based on the information contained in this post without consulting a qualified immigration attorney. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team directly.