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What is the Visa Bulletin and what can I use it for?

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If you just applied for a Green Card, you have undoubtedly already heard the term “Visa Bulletin”. Here we will explain its purpose and how to use it to know how long your immigration procedures at USCIS will take.

The Visa Bulletin is an essential tool for all migrants who have submitted applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), particularly those hoping to obtain a Green Card. It is a monthly released document that indicates what type of petitions are advancing in the immigration agency and how long the delay is estimated for each process, depending on the date the application was submitted and other factors.

The further ahead you are in the line, corresponding to the type of immigration procedure you applied for, the closer you will be to obtaining your Permanent Resident Card in the United States. Normally, once you have filed your I-130 petition, you can simply use the updated Visa Bulletin to find out where your spot is on the waiting list.

Did you know that the issuance of Green Cards has an annual limit?

The reason the Visa Bulletin even exists in the first place is because Congress places an annual limit on the number of Green Cards that can be issued. As the number of migrants applying for Permanent Resident Cards constantly exceeds this limit, this has caused a backlog of petitions creating a significant delay in adjustment of status procedures.

Congress currently allows the issuance of 366,000 green cards per year, but that total is divided into a complex system of categories, with a specific annual fee for each one. The categories with the highest quota are applications based on family ties (226,000) (which include applications based on marriage) and applications based on employment (140,000).

In addition to setting a blanket cap on the number of permanent residence cards that can be issued per year per category, Congress also limits the amount available based on applicants’ country of origin. No country can represent more than 7% of green cards in any category.

What categories exist in the Visa Bulletin for Family-based Immigration?

The limits per year for family-based Green Cards are spread over four main preference categories that are given different names in the Visa Bulletin:

  • F1: Single adults (over 21 years of age) children of US citizens. 23,400 cards per year.
  • F2: Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents. 114,200 cards per year, divided into two sub-categories (F2A and F2B).
  • F2A: Spouses and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) of permanent residents. 87,934 cards per year.
  • F2B: Single adults (over 21 years old) children of permanent residents. 26,266 cards per year.
  • F3: Married children of US citizens, regardless of age. 23,400 cards per year.
  • F4: Brothers or sisters of US citizens. 65,000 cards per year.

F2A: The fastest way to get a Green Card

If you look at this month’s Visa Bulletin, you will notice that the waiting time to receive a permanent resident card for the F2A category is much shorter than for any other category of preference for family immigration.

There are two reasons why this category advances faster than the others. First, it is the category with the largest fee, with a total of 87,934 cards per year. In addition, 75% of the green cards within the F2A category are exempt from the annual limits per country, so they may exceed this limit in some cases.

Is there also an annual limit for spouses of U.S. citizens?

Fortunately, there is no annual limit to the number of green cards available to those who are direct relatives of US citizens. These can be spouses, parents, or unmarried minor children. As there is no annual limit, there are no delays in the issuance of this type of permanent residence card, and it will not be necessary for you to follow the visa bulletin to estimate the delay time of your process.

Where can I find last month’s Visa Bulletin?

USCIS periodically publishes the Visa Bulletin updated to the current month on the website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the Department of State. If you need to know the estimated waiting times for different procedures within USCIS, you can also use the official online tool, which will allow you to access the updated processing times for each location and type of procedure.

If you have not yet started the procedure of applying to obtain your permanent residence card in the United States, remember that it is extremely important that you present all your documents correctly so that you do not take risks or have to wait longer than necessary.

We highly recommend that you contact a lawyer specializing in immigration before undertaking any procedure of this kind, especially if you think that your immigration situation may be delicate.

If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon, we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at 281-606-0800!

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