When you apply for a green card, the process will involve two different applications: 1) the initial petition (submitted by your sponsor) and 2) your actual application for the visa or green card.
You cannot submit this second application until:
- The original petition has been approved; AND
- A visa or green card is available for you.
Every year, the U.S. government distributes a limited number of visas and green cards to immigrants. This is why some people must wait many years before a visa becomes available in their category.
To keep track of visa numbers and let prospective immigrants know when they can complete the last phase of their green card process, the U.S. government issues a monthly Visa Bulletin. Whether you are adjusting your status in the U.S. or applying for a visa through consular processing abroad, you will need to check this bulletin to know when you can apply for your visa or green card.
Reading the Visa Bulletin
The Visa Bulletin is organized by category and country. When you find your category (e.g. family-sponsored, second preference), you will then look for your country of birth. If your country isn’t listed, you will use the column labeled “All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed.”
Once you locate the right square according to your category and country, you will see a priority date, written as DAY/MONTH/YEAR (e.g. 22JULY15). A priority date is the date upon which USCIS received your I-130 or I-140 Immigrant Petition (unless your I-140 was based on a Labor Certification, in which case your priority date is the certification filing date).
You can apply for your visa if your priority date is earlier than the date listed on the Visa Bulletin. Some categories will have a “C” instead of a date—the “C” stands for current, which means you can apply for the visa as soon as your petition is approved.
The October Visa Bulletin
The October bulletin is a special case because it marks the beginning of the Department of State’s fiscal year (October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021). This is one reason why the dates on the bulletin have moved forward—at the beginning of the fiscal year, the full amount of annually allotted visas becomes available, including unused visa numbers for last year’s family-based immigration categories rolled over to this year’s employment-based immigration categories. Many more visas than usual were unused because of closed consulates and travel bans related to COVID-19.
Keep in mind that the bulletin changes from month to month. Let’s say, for example, you apply for a visa in October because your category is current. If it is pending through November, but the priority dates are retrogressed in November, USCIS will not be able to approve your application until the category becomes current again. Checking the bulletin regularly is critical, therefore, because you will want to waste no time in completing the final phase of your green card application process.
Bring Your Questions to Our Team
At Verma Law Firm, we assist clients with every step of the immigration process. We can help you interpret the visa bulletin, navigate each procedure with ease and efficiency, and maximize your likelihood of success by submitting error-free applications and comprehensive evidence.