The State Department publishes a Visa Bulletin monthly. It is a source of relevant information on visa waiting periods.
On that website, you can find the chart for “Family-Sponsored Preferences” and two more for “Employment-Based Preferences.” These charts will tell you when you can apply for a visa. Moreover, you can find out when the visa actually can be given to you. Here are some tips on how to loo in these charts:
- First, locate your preference category in the column on the left.
- On the top, locate your country. Countries mentioned above (India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines) often have specified columns because of the large number of applicants, and it means that usually, they wait longer.
- You will also have the cutoff date — the key time that you will compare with your priority date to map your progress.
Every prospective immigrant has his or her priority date. The priority date is the date when USCIS first received the I-130, or when the Department of Labor received the labor certification request by your employer petitioner. Your priority date will be on your paperwork from one of these agencies.
The earlier your priority date is will mean you are in line ahead of others, but the current cutoff date will not tell you how long you will wait before your visa or green card is available. But, the Visa Bulletin website provides information on how long previous applicants are waiting for visas, so you can check what an approximate waiting time is.
Sometimes the government feds up with a large number of visa applications. This is usually a reason why the cutoff dates are prolonged for months.
Don’t get confused with a box containing the letter C or U instead of a date. The letter C stands for “current,” and it means there are numbers of visas in that category, and it means no one has to wait. On the other side, the letter U stands for “unavailable,” indicating the opposite – the visas have already been distributed. In other words, you have to wait for the next deadline.