On September 9, 2015, the government unveiled a new version of the monthly Visa Bulletin. Essentially, the change allows people to apply for their immigrant visa or lawful permanent residence sooner than when the visa is actually due to become available. Those that are eligible to adjust their status in the U.S. benefit because they can apply for a work permit immediately and maintain one while their application is pending with USCIS. For those that are applying for immigrant visas, after what can be years of waiting for a visa to become available, can begin the process several months earlier, which can be a very exciting event!
Understanding the benefits of the new visa bulletin requires some knowledge of the older visa bulletin system, and a background of the complicated pathway to U.S. permanent residence. In a nutshell, in order to immigrate to the U.S., one must fall under a category of visas available. Numerous visa categories exist. For example, single children of U.S. citizens over the age of 21 fall in the F1 category. Another example are skilled workers or professionals, who fall in the EB-3 category. Each category of immigrants have a certain number of visas available to it. Moreover, certain countries have their own rate of visa availabilities per category.
Immigrants must look to the visa bulletin to see if their visa category is current. Each category will either indicate that it is currently available, or indicate a past date. The past dates mean that visas are available to the beneficiaries of petitions that were filed on that date or before. So, visa numbers come available to those who had petitions filed for them first, and everyone else “waits in line” behind them. Under the old system, only once the date was “current,” could the beneficiaries apply for an immigrant visa or lawful permanent residence. The new visa bulletin now indicates a date, in advanced of the date the visa becomes available, that applicants can start submitting their paperwork!
This new visa bulletin can streamline the process and also allow those that can adjust status, to obtain a work permit several months quicker than under the old bulletin. Those that are waiting abroad, can also start the process quicker, sometimes after many years of waiting. Overall, the new visa bulletin is a win for immigrants, and hopefully, an indication that more positive changes are coming in the future.