Frequently Asked Questions About The Visa Bulletin

September 25, 2020

Q: What is a visa bulletin?

A: The amount of legal permanent resident cards (i.e. green cards) issued per fiscal year is limited to 140,000. Due to an overwhelming demand and a per country quota, some countries are backlogged on the availability of green cards being allotted to their nationals. As a result of this issue, the visa bulletin is a chart released each month to inform the public as to who is eligible to submit their application for a green card based on this backlog and quota.

Q: Where can I view the visa bulletin?

A: You can view the bulletin on the State Department website.

Q: I am reviewing the visa bulletin and I see EB categories. What is an EB category?

A: EB stands for employment-based. When a company sponsors an employee for permanent residency, the employee will be placed into one of the five (5) categories which is largely determined based on the job requirements. Most employment sponsored green cards fall into EB-2 or EB-3. Generally speaking, EB-2 is the preferred category for foreign nationals.

Q: How do I know which EB category my employee is in?

A: This is noted on the I-140 approval notice. If Global Immigration Associates (GIA) was responsible for filing the I-140, you can find the I-140 approval notice in the case’s reference documents.

Q: I am looking at the visa bulletin and I see a priority date. What is a priority date?

A: Priority dates are the dates used by foreign nationals to determine if they are eligible to file for their actual green card (i.e. form I-485). For purposes of EB-2 and EB-3, this is the date when the ETA 9089 was submitted to and accepted by the Department of Labor (DOL) for processing. You can view a person’s priority date on their I-140 approval notice.

Q: My employee has a priority date that was issued years before they started employment with us and before we started the green card process for them, why is that?

A: An employee may retain their priority date from prior employers when engaging in sponsorship with future employers, so it is possible they had a priority date prior to your sponsorship of them.

Q: Does an employee use his or her citizenship or country of birth for purposes of the visa bulletin?

A: A foreign national uses their country of birth or their spouse’s country of birth for purposes of the visa bulletin, whichever one is more advantageous for them.

Q: Do Envoy and GIA track the visa bulletin and priority dates?

A: Yes, when a person is “current” with the visa bulletin and eligible to file for their green card, Envoy and GIA are alerted and will take action to initiate their case if applicable.

Q: Why are there two visa bulletins?

A: Great question. Historically speaking, there was always one visa bulletin named the Final Action Chart. However, a few years ago, the State Department started releasing a second visa bulletin called the Dates for Filing chart. The Dates for Filing chart is stating that people may file their I-485 applications if current with that chart but the I-485 case itself will not be adjudicated until the person is current with the Final Action Chart.

However, the USCIS is not obligated to use the Dates for Filing chart. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who adjudicates I-485 cases, will release their own statement each month on whether they will use the Final Action chart or Dates for Filing chart. Therefore, people must pay attention to both what the DOS and USCIS say regarding the visa bulletin.

Q: What is an I-485 application?

A: An I-485 application is the last step of the green card process. It is the foreign national’s application for their actual green card and largely contains biographical information along with questions to ensure the individual is not a security threat to the U.S.

Q: How long do I-485 applications take to be processed?

A: I-485 filings can take 8-24 months based on current government processing times and the service center that received the application.

Q: Can my employee downgrade from one EB category to another?

A: Yes, they would have to file a new I-140 petition and that petition could not be premium processed.

Q: How much does an I-140 cost? How much does an I-485 cost?

A: Please contact your Envoy Customer Relationship Manager for further guidance on this question.

Q: If my employee wishes to downgrade from EB-2 to EB-3, can the I-140 matter be premium processed?

A: Unfortunately, no. Premium processing is not available for these applications.

Q: Can an employee pay for the I-140 him or herself? How about the I-485?

A: An employee may pay for both an I-140 and I-485 should they want to.

Q: Am I obligated to pay the offered wage in the I-485 when I file the case? When must I pay the wage?

A: In the context of green cards and the process, an employer is obligated to pay a certain wage to an employee when they get their green card. This wage is listed in the ETA 9089 and also the I-140 petition. If you need help finding either, please reach out to your Envoy Customer Relationship Manager or post a message to the legal team using the Envoy Communication Center. The wage itself is not due until the person gets their green card—you do not have to pay it when the I-485 is filed. It’s important to note that in relation to the last visa bulletin, several people from India will be able to file their I-485 per the Dates for Filing chart but they may not get their green card for 5-6 years as their priority date is far from being current with the final action chart. If you have questions about the wage, please post to your Envoy Communication Center.

Q: Does it matter if we file the I-485 in early October as compared to late October?

A: No, it will make no difference. Due to high demand, GIA will not be able to prioritize I-485 matters in October but if current in October, GIA will make sure to file the matter in October.

Q: What will the November visa bulletin look like? When does is it released?

A: This should be released in mid-October and at this point, we are not sure what it will look like.


Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Ryan Bay, who is Partner, Legal Operations at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (www.giafirm.com), 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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