The U.S. Visa Bulletin, published monthly by the Department of State, plays a pivotal role in the green card application process for immigrants. This bulletin provides an overview of the availability of immigrant visas, also known as green cards, based on specific criteria: the visa category, country of birth, and priority date. Let’s delve deeper into the significance of this bulletin, with a special focus on the EB-1 visa category for September 2023.
What is the Visa Bulletin?
The Visa Bulletin effectively summarizes the availability of green cards for applicants. Every year, a maximum of 140,000 green cards are issued to employment-based applicants and their dependents. These are distributed among five distinct preference categories. The EB-1, or Employment-based 1st category, is allocated for “Priority Workers” and encompasses 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level.
However, no single foreign country can claim more than 7% of the total visas available in a year. This often results in certain countries having a higher backlog or wait time than others. When the number of applicants exceeds the available green cards for a specific category or country, it’s considered “oversubscribed”. This leads to the implementation of a cut-off date.
The priority date, often the date on which a labor certification or the I-140 petition was filed, plays a crucial role here. If an applicant’s priority date is before the cut-off date, they’re in line to get a green card. If not, they must wait. Any unused green cards at the year’s end are not rolled over to the next year.
The Importance of the Visa Bulletin
The Visa Bulletin serves as a monthly tracker for green card applicants. It determines if and when an applicant can move to the final phase of the green card process. Because of the 7% per-country cap, individuals from oversubscribed countries, like India, may wait over a decade, while others might not wait at all. Such prolonged wait times can create complications, especially for those on nonimmigrant status with time constraints.
Two Charts in the Visa Bulletin: A Distinct Difference
The Visa Bulletin showcases two separate charts:
- Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases
- Dates for Filing of Employment-Based Visa Applications
The Final Action Date chart indicates when a green card is truly available. It’s the ultimate date of determination.
On the other hand, the Dates for Filing chart is more of a predictive tool, considering the processing times. It essentially lets applicants file ahead, anticipating that by the processing end, a green card will be available per the Final Action Date chart.
Interpreting the September 2023 Visa Bulletin for EB-1 Category
For September 2023, the EB-1 category displays the following:
Final Action Dates:
- General: 01AUG23
- China: 01FEB22
- India: 01JAN12
- Mexico & Philippines: 01AUG23
Dates for Filing:
- General, Mexico & Philippines: Current (indicating that applicants from these regions can file anytime)
- China & India: 01JUN22
From this data, we deduce the following:
- Applicants from general areas, Mexico, and the Philippines with priority dates before August 1, 2023, can receive their green cards in September 2023. For filing, they’re “current,” meaning they can file their applications without waiting.
- Chinese applicants with a priority date before February 1, 2022, can get their green cards, while those with dates before June 1, 2022, can file their applications.
- Indian applicants face the longest wait. Only those with a priority date before January 1, 2012, can get their green cards in September 2023. However, those with priority dates before June 1, 2022, can at least initiate their filing process.
The U.S. Visa Bulletin is an essential tool for green card applicants. It guides them through their application process, helping them understand when they can proceed to the next step. The EB-1 category for September 2023 showcases the disparities in wait times, primarily due to the per-country cap, emphasizing the need for regular consultation of the Visa Bulletin.