Filipinos – and other nationalities – with approved immigrant visa petitions wait for the publication of the Visa Bulletin, published by the U.S. State Department sometime between the first and second week of each month.  Here is a primer on how the U.S. Visa System works since it is not points-tested as is the case with the UK and commonwealth nations – Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

There are two main immigrant visa categories: Family-sponsored and Employment-based.

Each petition in the two main categories has a priority date, or the filing date. The priority date for the Family-sponsored is the date in which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received and acknowledge a visa petition in the specific immigrant visa category.

The priority date for certain categories in the Employment-based,  (e.g., EB2, EB3, OW) is the date by which the request for a labor certification was received by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration.

The approved petitions are then forwarded by the USCIS to the State Department’s National Visa Center for filing until notified by the Visa Office that visa processing should commence.  The Visa Office  (VO) is the monitoring unit of the State Department.

At the beginning of each month, the VO receives a report from each consular post (embassies) listing totals of documentarily qualified immigrant visa applicants in categories subject to quota or numerical limitation.  Cases are kept and grouped by foreign state chargeability, preference and priority date. No names are reported.

Documentarily qualified applicants are those whose priority dates are to be current ;have submitted the documents required to establish eligibility for the specific immigrant visa category such as F1 (Over 21, unmarried sons and daughter of U.S. Citizens) and paid the visa fees.  

The numerical limitation or quota worldwide is set at 226,000 for the Family-sponsored and 140,000 for the Employment-based. Each country is assigned 25,620 visas for allocation for that country’s Family and Employment-based categories.

During the first week of each month, the VO tabulates demand for all documentarily qualified applicants. Demand is the number of visa applicants in each category.

There are two types of documentarily qualified that would be tabulated and reported: those who are in the United States (applying for adjustment of status, whether legal or undocumented) and those who are outside the Philippines who have completed the documentation process with the NVC.   Historically, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services have been able to get more visa numbers than those applying for their immigrant visas at consulates.

VO subdivides the 226,000 and 140,000 into monthly allotments (allocations) for each country. The totals of documentarily qualified applicants which have been reported to the VO (by the USCIS and National Visa Center) are compared each month with the numbers available for the next regular allotment.

There are several variables to determine how many numbers would be available for the current month: these are (1) past number use; (2) estimates of future number use and return rates; and (3) estimates of demand from USCIS based on cut-off movements.

Once the variables have been determined, the cutoff dates are established and numbers are allocated to reported applicants in order  of their priority dates, the oldest dates first.  

The cut-off date (which determines the cut-off movements) is established when there are more documentarily qualified applicants in a category than the total amount of visas allocated for that category.  If there are sufficient visas (more visa numbers than applicants) the category is considered “Current” and it is marked as “C” in the Visa Bulletin.

For example:  If the monthly allocation target (based on cut-off movement) is 3,000 and there are only  1,000 applicants the category can be "Current”.  When there are more applicants than visa allocation, the category is considered ‘Oversubscribed”.  Hence, if there are 10,000 visas available in a specific category and the documentarily qualified applicants are 10,001, the cut-off date would be the priority date of the 10,001st applicant.  
The next visa applicant affected by the cut-off date must wait for the next month’s visa allocation, or in certain instances. if some immigrant visa applicants do not or are not able to use their visas. The unused visas are then returned to the VO and reincorporated into the current month’s visa allocation.

November, 2013

Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based All Charge –ability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA- mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
F1 22OCT06 22OCT06 22OCT06 22SEP93 01JUL01
F2A 08SEP13 08SEP13 08SEP13 01SEP13 08SEP13
F2B 22MAR06 22MAR06 22MAR06 01APR94 01MAR03
F3 08FEB03 08FEB03 08FEB03 01JUN93 08JAN93
F4 22AUG01 22AUG01 22AUG01 22OCT96 22APR90
EB3 01OCT10 01OCT10 22SEP03 01OCT10 15DEC2006
Other Workers 01OCT10 01OCT10 22SEP03 01OCT10 15DEC2006

If you need assistance in having your immigrant visa processed, or explore other visa options to other countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK or any of the European nations, complete our Personal Intake Sheet Online for a free assessment. You may also call the Immigrant Visa Center at (02) 634-8717.

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