The Visa Bulletin: What It Is and How to Navigate It

September 25, 2020 Sara Herbek

The visa bulletin can be used to determine when a green card application can be filed with USCIS

Foreign nationals use the visa bulletin to help determine when they will be able to file an Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment Status. The charts reflect the demand for a green card within the different categories (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, etc.) with the corresponding per-country limitations. These wait times are also dependent on the demand of a certain green card category.

To help foreign nationals and their employers better understand how to navigate the visa bulletin, we put together a list of frequently asked questions and a quick example showing how to find a priority date.

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the visa bulletin

What is the Visa Bulletin?

The visa bulletin serves as a waiting list for foreign nationals whose immigrant visas are subject to a yearly quota. It is made up of four charts, two for employment-based immigration and the other two for family-sponsored green cards. Foreign nationals utilize these charts to determine when they are able to file their Form I-485 and related applications.

Who Publishes the Visa Bulletin and How Frequently?

The U.S. State Department publishes the visa bulletin every month on their website. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) then posts an analysis of this bulletin on their website a few days later to specify which chart foreign nationals should use to determine their filing date.

The State Department provides two separate charts for both employment-based and family-based green cards: Final Action Dates and Dates for Filing. Final action dates determine the priority dates that are considered to be at the front of the green card wait line. Dates for filing represent individuals whose priority date is before the date listed on the visa bulletin. This means USCIS could adjudicate supplemental benefits for Adjustment of Status applicants by way of preemptive filing. This allows foreign nationals whose green card wait times are significantly longer to receive additional benefits in the interim, such as work authorization and travel. 

When does the Visa Bulletin get updated?

The visa bulletin is generally updated in the middle of the prior month. For example, the chart for May would be issued in mid-April. If a foreign national’s priority date is current, according to that chart, he or she could file the I-485 during the month of May.

What is a Priority Date?

A priority date represents a foreign national’s place in line for the green card he or she is waiting to obtain. The priority date for employment-based cases usually corresponds with when the PERM labor certification was filed with the Department of Labor (DOL). 

For employment-based cases that do not require a LCA certification, the priority date is the I-140 filing date.

What Are the Common Terms Used in the Visa Bulletin?

One of the most common terms used in the visa bulletin is “Current.” Indicated in the charts with a “C,” this means that a category is current and there is no wait time, and applicants with any priority date can apply for adjustment of status. Current status is subject to change on a month-to-month basis, and will be reflected with each visa bulletin update.

Another term commonly used when talking about the visa bulletin is the “Date for Filing” or “Cut-off Date.” This is the date a foreign national will see in the chart that determines if they are eligible to file their I-485. If a foreign national’s priority date is before the Date for Filing listed in the visa bulletin, they are able to submit their I-485 for final adjudication with USCIS.

Navigating The Visa Bulletin

Step 1: Locate the Appropriate Chart for Your Category

The final action dates for employment-based preference class visa bulletin.

*In July 2019, USCIS indicated that applicants must use the final action dates to determine availability.

Step 2: Find Your Visa Preference Type In The First Column

The visa bulletin.

*1st, 2nd and 3rd on the graph refer to the EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 green card categories, respectively.

Step 3: Stay In That Row And Find The Corresponding Priority Date Under The Country Of Birth

The visa bulletin.

If the date on the chart is current “C” or the foreign national’s priority date is earlier than the date listed, the applicant can file the Form I-485.

For more information about the visa bulletin or the PERM recruitment process, catch our on-demand webinar with Global Immigration Associates Managing Attorney Louis Massard.

Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Sara Herbek, who is the Managing Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (, Envoy’s affiliated law firm.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.

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