How to Read the Visa Bulletin
If you have a family member that has filed an I-130 immigrant petition on your behalf, you may need to learn how to read the visa bulletin. Immediate relatives (spouses, parents and minor children of U.S. citizens) have an unlimited number of visas available. But just about everybody else has to wait.
The visa bulletin lets you know when it’s time to claim your green card.
Why There’s a Visa Bulletin
Because the number of intending immigrants generally exceeds the available immigrant visas, there is virtually always a wait for family preference categories. In this situation, the available immigrant visas (green cards) will be issued in a first-come, first-serve manner for each category.
If you are in a family preference category, it’s important to understand that an approved I-130 petition does not mean you may come to the United States. The approved I-130 petition means that you’ve established your place in line for a visa, but it is not yet available.
You have reached the front of the line when your priority date becomes “current.” The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly visa bulletin that lists the priority dates which have become current. In other words, these are the priority dates that now have an immigrant visa available to be claimed. You must review the U.S. Department of State’s visa bulletin to determine if your immigrant petition is current. When an immigrant petition is current, you can apply for a green card.
To read the visa bulletin, you’ll need to know two things:
The numerical limitation for family preference immigrant visas creates a wait list. The applicant’s “place in line” is designated with a priority date. The filing date of the I-130 petition becomes the applicant’s priority date.
Locating your priority date is fairly easy. Review the I-797 Notice of Action (I-130 Approval Notice) that was provided when the I-130 petition was approved. The priority date is in the top section of the document. In the example below, a red circle identifies the priority date.
Once you priority date is current, your immigrant visa will be available to claim.
Your family preference category is based on your relationship with the petitioner. Different relationships are given different priority for an immigrant visa. If an I-130 petition was filed on your behalf, the petition is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member. Determining your family preference category is fairly easy. Use the chart below to determine your preference category.
Unmarried, adult sons and daughters (age 21 or over) of U.S. citizens
Spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
Now, with your priority date and family preference category, we can show you how to read the visa bulletin.
Read the Visa Bulletin
Once you know your priority date and your preference category, proceed to the U.S. State Department’s monthly visa bulletin. Select the “Current Visa Bulletin.” Forward to “Family-Sponsored Preferences” to see a table similar to the sample below. Find your family preference category and compare your priority date to the date listed. If your priority date comes before the date listed, your immigrant visa is current.
Most people can view the column labeled “All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed.” But if your country of nationality is China, India, Mexico or Philippines, use the respective column for those dates. Now you know how to read the visa bulletin.
|Family-Sponsored||All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed||CHINA-mainland born||INDIA||MEXICO||PHILIPPINES|
Apply for a Green Card
If your I-130 petition is now current, you may apply for permanent residence (green card) in the United States. There are two basic ways to apply for your green card: consular processing or adjustment of status.
If you are currently outside the United States, the only path for immigrating to the U.S. is consular processing. Consular processing refers to the process of applying for an immigrant visa (green card) through the U.S. embassy or consular office in a foreign country. Consular processing is the most common path to obtain a green card. Learn more about consular processing.
Adjustment of Status
If you are currently inside the United States, you may be able to adjust status. Adjustment of status is the term used to describe a change in U.S. immigration status to permanent residence (green card holder). U.S. immigration law allows a temporary visitor (e.g. student, tourist, etc.) to change status to a permanent resident if the individual lawfully entered the United States and meets certain requirements. The temporary visitor must be in the United States after being lawfully inspected and admitted or paroled.
Only a very limited group of people can adjust status. The most common scenarios include K-1 fiancés that came to the U.S. and married a U.S. citizen, asylees, refugees, or those who arrived on an employment visa (e.g. H-1B) and the employer sponsored them for a green card. All green card applicants that don’t qualify for adjustment of status must use the consular processing path. Learn more about adjustment of status.