Immigration laws limit the number of annual visas that can be granted in Family-Sponsored cases other than immediate relatives to 226,000 per year. Each year at least 140,000 Employment-Based visas are granted.
Because there are many more petitions for visas approved each year than there are visas available, the U.S. Department of State issues a Visa Bulletin each month to advise which cases can be issued permanent resident visas. As U.S. immigration laws provides that visas be made available in the order they were filed, the date of filing of an immigrant petition is called its “priority” date. The Visa Bulletin lists a “cut-off” date for each category. If a visa case’s priority date is earlier than the Visa Bulletin’s cut off date, a visa is available.
Some countries are considered “oversubscribed” because they have been issued more than 7% of the total annual family based and employment based visa limits. These countries are listed separately on the Visa Bulletin and are issued cut-off dates different from those of other countries that are not oversubscribed.
Movement of the cut -off date shown on the Visa Bulletin from month to month is not certain. They can move forward by days, weeks, or months during a month, or might not move at all. In some cases the numbers may move backwards (retrogress). The U.S. Department of State moves the cut-off dates based upon the request for visas from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for Adjustment of Status cases or from U.S. Consulates for consular cases. The Visa Bulletin will set cut-off dates so that the limit of annual visas is not exceeded.
The Visa Bulletin is issued by the State Department about two weeks prior to the month it covers. It is valid beginning the 1st of the month it covers and is generally valid until the last day of that month.
The Visa Bulletin for the current month and for prior months is available at: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin.html.