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Visa Bulletin for March 2024: Insight into Immigrant Visa Availability

Visa Bulletin
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The March 2024 Visa Bulletin provides essential information for applicants waiting to file for their immigrant visas. “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications” are pivotal in understanding when to submit necessary documentation to the National Visa Center. Typically, “Final Action Dates” are used to determine application timing. However, if the USCIS notes an excess in visa availability, it may instruct applicants to use the “Dates for Filing Applications” instead.

Procedures That Determine Visa Bulletin Application Dates

Consular officers and the USCIS play a critical role in reporting applicants that qualify documentarily for visas subject to numerical limitations. The reported priority dates help order applications chronologically, satisfying demand up to a certain cut-off point determined on February 6th. An oversubscribed category’s final action date corresponds with the priority date of the first applicant not reached within numerical limits, which may retrogress if necessary during allocation.

Annual Limits for Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based Preference Immigrants

The fiscal year 2024 imposes a limit of 226,000 family-sponsored preference immigrants as per Section 201 of the INA. In contrast, employment-based preference immigrants have been allocated at least 140,000 visas worldwide. Furthermore, Section 202 establishes that preference immigrants from any country cannot exceed 7% of total annual limits from both categories—capped at 25,620—while dependent areas have a limit of 2%, amounting to 7,320 visas.

Order of Issuance for Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based Preference Visa Bulletin

According to INA Section 203(e), issuing visas to family-sponsored and employment-based preference applicants must follow the chronological order of petition filings. Section 203(d) ensures that spouses and children retain similar status and priority if they accompany or intend to join the principal applicant.

This information encapsulates critical details about preferences and procedures affecting immigrant visa issuance as outlined in the Visa Bulletin for March 2024. Applicants should examine these sections closely and monitor USCIS announcements for any updates affecting their application process.

Family-Sponsored Visa Bulletin Preferences

Navigating through the family-sponsored visa preferences can be confusing. To help clarify the process, here’s a breakdown of the four primary family-sponsored preferences, organized by category.

First Preference: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens (F1)

The first preference applies to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, with a total of 23,400 visas available annually. In addition to this number, any visas not required for the fourth preference are also added to this category, potentially increasing the total number of visas.

Second Preference: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents

The second preference is divided into two subcategories:

  1. Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents (F2A)

Spouses and children of permanent residents are allocated 77% of the overall second preference limitation. It is noteworthy that 75% of these are exempt from the per-country limit, providing a broader access to applicants from countries with high demand.

  1. Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents (F2B)

Unmarried sons and daughters over the age of 21 who have at least one parent who is a permanent resident fall under this category. They receive 23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third Preference: Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens (F3)

The third preference category includes married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Annually, 23,400 visas are made available here as well, with additional numbers being allocated from any unused first and second preference visas.

Fourth Preference: Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens (F4)

Finally, the fourth preference is designated for brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens. The cap for this category stands at 65,000 visas per year, plus any remaining numbers not required by the first three preferences.

Each year, these family-sponsored preference categories enable thousands of family members to join their relatives in the United States, promoting family unity as an essential part of U.S. immigration policy.

Final Action Dates for Family-Sponsored Preference Cases: March Review

The Visa Bulletin Chart

In the family-sponsored preference categories, a date listed for any given class indicates that the category is oversubscribed (as detailed in paragraph 1). In this context, “C” denotes current status, meaning that numbers are available for issuance to all eligible applicants. Conversely, “U” implies an unauthorized status, where numbers are unavailable.

Category All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
First (F1) 08 February 2015 08 February 2015 08 February 2015 01 May 2001 01 March 2012
Second A (F2A) 22 June 2020 22 June 2020 22 June 2020 15 June 2020 22 June 2020
Second B (F2B) 22 November 2015 22 November 2015 22 November 2015 22 October 2003 22 October 2011
Third (F3) 01 October 2009 01 October 2009 01 October 2009 08 September 1998 08 June 2002
Fourth (F4) 08 June 2007 08 June 2007 15 December,2005 15 October,2000 15 June,2003

 

Current Availability for F2A Category

For the month of March, there is noteworthy information regarding F2A visa numbers:

  • First and foremost, F2A numbers not subject to the per-country limit are available for issuance. This applies to applicants from all countries with priority dates on or before June 15, 2020.
  • However, F2A numbers that are subject to the per-country limit have a different set of rules. These are authorized for issuance to applicants chargeable to all countries except Mexico. For these countries, priority dates must be on or before June 22, 2020.
  • It’s essential to note that all F2A visa numbers allocated for Mexico stand exempt from the per-country limitation.

Applicants should review their priority date against these final action dates to determine if they can proceed with their visa application process.

Filing Dates for Family-Sponsored Visa Applications

How to Determine Your Eligibility to Apply

The visa bulletin serves as a guide to understanding when you can submit your family-sponsored visa application. It features important dates that dictate when action is necessary in the processing of applications. This guide aims to clarify the dates by providing information in an organized manner.

Category Family-Sponsored Preferences (All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed) China-mainland born India Mexico Philippines
F1 01 September 2017 01 September 2017 01 September 2017 01 April 2005 22 April 2015
F2A 01 September 2023 01 September 2023 01 September 2023 01 September 2023 01 September 2023
F2B 01 January 2017 01 January 2017 01 January 2017 01 August 2004 01 October 2013
F3 01 March 2010 01 March 2010 01 March 2010 15 June 2001 08 November 2003
F4 01 March 2008 01 March 2008 22 February 2006 15 April 2001 22 April 2004

Immediate Action Dates for Application Filing:

When your priority date— the date your visa petition was initially filed—is earlier than the application date stated in our chart, it signifies the time has come to act promptly. You should prepare and send off the required documents to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will contact you with specific instructions on how to proceed.

Over-subscription and Priority Dates:

In categories where there are more applicants than available visas, known as oversubscription, the critical date is the priority date of the applicant at the front of the line who is not yet able to apply due to visa limitations. If a particular category on our chart is marked as “current,” denoted by a “C,” this means there are no backlogs, and any applicant in this category can file their application irrespective of their priority date.

How to Determine if You Can File:

Applicants with a priority date falling before the listed date for their category can file their applications. It’s paramount to consistently check www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo so you can get up-to-date information regarding your eligibility for filing an adjustment of status application with USCIS, based on this chart, for the current month.

Stay informed and prepared by understanding these guidelines, ensuring that your family-sponsored Visa Bulletin application process proceeds as smoothly and quickly as possible.

EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CATEGORIES

First Preference: Priority Workers

Comprising 28.6% of the total worldwide employment-based preference level, the Priority Workers category is designated for top-tier professionals. This category also includes any unused numbers from the fourth and fifth preferences, should there be any.

Second Preference: Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability

Equally allocated 28.6% of the global quota, this category is for those who possess advanced degrees or demonstrate exceptional ability in their fields of expertise. Any surplus from the first preference contributes to this category’s availability.

Third Preference: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers

This preference represents another 28.6% slice of the worldwide quota and encompasses three subgroups: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers—also known as Unskilled Workers. The number dedicated to ‘Other Workers’ is limited to no more than 10,000 visas annually and utilizes unused visas from the first and second preferences.

Fourth Preference: Special Immigrants

The fourth category is set at 7.1% of the global limit and includes a variety of Special Immigrants, such as certain religious workers, U.S. foreign service employees, and others specified by immigration law.

Fifth Preference: Employment Creation (Investors)

Accounting for another 7.1% of the worldwide limit, this category specifically caters to investors who contribute to economic growth through job creation. Of this allocation:

– 20% is reserved for qualified immigrants investing in rural regions;

– 10% goes to those funding projects in high unemployment locales;

– 2% is set aside for infrastructure project investors.

The remaining majority (68%) applies broadly to all other qualifying investors under this preference without any specific reservation.

Updates on Employment Third Preference Other Workers Final Action Dates

The following table outlines the current Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases, with particular attention to the Employment Third Preference Other Workers (EW) category. It is important to note several key points defining the status and availability of numbers:

Employment-based All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st (First) C (Current) 15JUL22 01OCT20 C (Current) C (Current)
2nd (Second) 22NOV22 01JAN20 01MAR12 22NOV22 22NOV22
3rd (Third) 08SEP22 01SEP20 01JUL12 08SEP22 08SEP22
Other Workers 08SEP20 01JAN17 01JUL12 08SEP20 01MAY20
4th (Fourth) 01DEC19 01DEC19 01DEC19 01DEC19 01DEC19
Certain Religious Workers 01DEC19 01DEC19 01DEC19 01DEC19 01DEC19
5th Unreserved (including C5, T5, I5, R5) C (Current) 15DEC15 01DEC20 C (Current) C (Current)
5th Set Aside: Rural (20%) C (Current) C (Current) C (Current) C (Current) C (Current)
RFTH Set Aside: High Unemployment (10%) C (Current) C (Current) C (Current) C (Current) C (Current)
RFTH Set Aside: Infrastructure (2%) C (Current) C (Current) C (Current) C (Current) C (Current)
  • A listed date indicates that a class is oversubscribed, as detailed in paragraph 1.
  • The designation “C” signifies that visa numbers are currently available for all who qualify.
  • The letter “U” represents a status where numbers are not authorized for issuance.

Employment Third Preference Other Workers Category Adjustments

In accordance with Section 203(e) of the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), passed in November 1997 and amended by Section 1(e) of Pub. L. 105-139, specific adjustments occur within the Employment Third Preference Other Worker category. When the cut-off date matches the priority date of the most recent EW petition approved before November 19, 1997, there is an annual reduction in visa numbers. Commencing in Fiscal Year (FY) 2002, following this alignment happening in FY 2001, up to 5,000 visas from the allotted 10,000 for the category may be deducted each fiscal year.

This ongoing adjustment addresses compensations under NACARA and remains effective until it sufficiently offsets the necessary amount. For FY 2024, this reduction will be limited to approximately 150 visas—an update to be noted by applicants and stakeholders monitoring progression within this category.

Dates for Filing Employment-Based Visa Bulletin Applications

Determining the Right Time to Apply

The Department of State offers a periodically updated chart that serves as a guide for those intending to file for employment-based visas. This chart is critical as it indicates when applicants can take action in their application process. Importantly, if you have an immigrant visa application with a priority date that falls before the listed application date on the chart, you’re eligible to prepare and submit the necessary documentation to the National Visa Center (NVC). You will receive detailed submission instructions from the NVC once they send you a notification.

What Does It Mean When A Category Is “Current”?

If under any category there is an indication of “C”, it signifies that this category is labeled “current”. This means applicants of this employment-based visa category can file their applications without being concerned about their priority date. Essentially, every applicant in these categories is permitted to proceed with filing.

Interpreting Listed Dates

When you see a specific date listed under any visa category, it signifies a cut-off point. Only applicants whose priority dates are earlier than these listed dates are eligible to file their applications. To simplify, if your priority date comes before the date specified in the chart, then you’re cleared to send in your application.

Monthly Updates and Adjustments of Status

For updates and additional insights on whether this chart can be adopted for filing adjustments of status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), visit www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo. It’s pivotal to check this regularly, as USCIS decides on a monthly basis whether applicants should use this chart or an alternative one provided in paragraph 5.A.

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