Introduction to the Visa Bulletin



Some categories of immigrants are subject to a quota. When an application falls within a quota category, a prediction of the time until one’s visa will become available can alleviate some of the anxiety in waiting. Supply and demand within a given visa category and per-country limits vary the wait time for individual applicants.  Once immigration to the United States is determined to be possible, wait time can be estimated by viewing the “Visa Bulletin.”  This bulletin is currently available on the State Department Website.


Understanding the bulletin


(1) First, determine the category of concern: the bulletin below examples the Family Sponsored Preference categories.



Family-Sponsored Preferences:


First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: the maximum amount of visas allotted are 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.


Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

  1. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:  77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
  2. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents:  23% of the overall second preference limitation.


Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.


Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens:  65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.



(2) Next, find the category as listed in the Visa Bulletin. The dates under the headline “All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed” correspond to the “priority date” of the applicant. The “priority date” is the filing date of the first relevant document. Persons with priority dates corresponding to that listed in the chart will be first in line for the next month. Some countries have a different priority date particularly when the visa demand in those countries exceeds the per-country limit. In the sample chart below, applicants from India had a wait time of fourteen years under the F4 visa category while those in Mexico had a wait time of twenty years.



All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed
F1 08JAN10 08JAN10 08JAN10 22APR95 01OCT05
F2A 22MAR15 22MAR15 22MAR15 08MAR15 22MAR15
F2B 08JUN10 08JUN10 08JUN10 15OCT95 08APR06
F3 01MAR05 01MAR05 01MAR05 15DEC94 01SEP94
F4 22JAN04 22NOV03 15MAY03 15MAY97 08JUN93


“Visa Bulletin For January 2017,” U.S. Department of State, available at


This is not, nor should it be taken as legal advice. The writer of this post is not an attorney and is not offering or providing any form or type of legal advice or representation. If you need legal help, please contact a practicing attorney in your area.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of

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