SEPTEMBER 2023 Visa Bulletin Update
August 24th, 2023
September Visa Bulletin Available
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 an Application to Adjust Status based on their category, country of birth, and priority date.
How to use the Visa Bulletin
You use the Visa Bulletin to help you determine when you can file your case and when to expect your case to be processed.
Firs there are terms that will help you understand the Visa Bulletin:
- Priority Date: This is the “received date” of the I-130 or I-140 Immigrant Petition at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The exception that is if your I-140 Immigrant Petition is based on a Labor Certification (LC), the priority date is the LC filing date, not the date the petition was filed at USCIS.
- 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 your priority date is a date earlier than the date printed in a chart on the Visa Bulletin. This means you can (1) file a Form I-485. Adjustment of Status application; (2) USCIS can approve a pending Form I-485; or (3) a Consulate can issue you a green card.
- “Dates for Filing” Chart: Individuals with priority dates earlier than the cutoff dates in the chart who are otherwise eligible allowed to submit an Application to Adjust Status if they are in the United States. For individuals outside of the U.S. who have I-130 or I-140 petitions, the National Visa Center (NVC) will contact you by e-mail 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.
Each month, DOS adjusts these cutoff dates based on projected demand in each visa preference 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.
Understanding the Visa Backlogs
There are a limited number of family and employment-based immigrant visas available each year, and they are divided between several preference categories. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets a worldwide level at 140,000 for annual employment-based preference 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 September 2023 Visa Bulletin, we would see that the cutoff date for that category is January 1, 2015, for the Final Action chart and the cutoff date is September 1, 2017, in the Dates for Filing chart. Once USCIS updates its website to indicate which chart to use for September 2023, you can know if your priority date is current, or you will need to continue to wait.
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 DOS’ website. DOS also publishes a recording of visa final action dates around the 10th of each month for the following months. Call (202)-485-7699 to access the August recordings with the dates for September.
For More Information:
View September’s visa bulletin here.
View the prior (August) 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.