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An Explanation of Visa Bulletin Categories

Deciphering the Visa Bulletin Categories

The Visa Bulletin is published each month by the U.S. Department of State. It tells prospective immigrants whether visas are available to people from their country of origin and in their specific immigration and preference category. If visas are not currently available to all who seek them, the Visa Bulletin gives applicants an idea of the extent of the backlog.

Determining what the categories and codes in the chart mean can be confusing. The following information should help you determine what the information in the Visa Bulletin means to you if you are seeking a family-based or employment-based immigrant visa.

“C” Means Visas Are Currently Available

If visa numbers are available in your preference category for people from your country of birth (called the country of visa chargeability) there will be a “C,” for current, in the Visa Bulletin chart. The “C” means visas are available to qualified applicants overseas and to qualified foreign nationals from that country who are living in the U.S. and are seeking an adjustment of status.

A Date Means Visas Are Only Available to Certain Applicants

Visas may not be available in a particular preference category or to citizens of a specific foreign state. This is called being “oversubscribed.” When a category is close to being oversubscribed, a cutoff date will appear in the Visa Bulletin chart. Only qualified overseas and adjustment of status applicants, whose priority dates are earlier than the cutoff date, can obtain a visa.

For example, if the Visa Bulletin chart shows 22May01 for people from India in the “Employment-Based 3rd” preference category, visas are currently available to individuals with a priority date of May 21, 2001, or earlier.

“U” Means Unavailable

When a “U” appears in the Visa Bulletin chart, it means visas are unavailable to anyone, no matter their priority date.

Visa Retrogression

If a visa is available (current) one month, but unavailable the next, it means that more people applied for visas in that category than were available for that month. Called visa retrogression, this happens most often when the demand for visas has exceeded the annual supply in a particular category for a specific country. Once the annual limit is reached, no more visas will be granted until a new supply becomes available. The new visa allotment for each year becomes available on October 1. The new supply of visa numbers usually, but not always, brings the cutoff date back to where it was before the retrogression.


If an employment-based visa is unavailable due to retrogression, there may be a chance to obtain a visa from a different country of chargeability in certain limited circumstances. For example, if the principal applicant is from India and his wife is an Indian citizen who was born in England, both visas can be charged to England, rather than India, if they are available. It is important to speak to an immigration lawyer about issues such as cross-chargeability and other complex immigration issues.

To discuss the specifics of your case, please contact an immigration lawyer at May Law Group. We offer a free initial consultation. From offices in New York City, and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we represent clients from throughout the U.S. and around the world.

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