The Department of State Explains How it Establishes Preference Cut off Dates in its Visa Bulletin

U.S. law has quotas on the number of immigrants that can receive an immigrant visa during each fiscal year. Most immigrants either have qualifying family members who have obtained approved family based immigrant visa petitions or have employers who have gotten approved employment based immigrant visa petitions.  Within those broad family and employment categories, there are subdivision classifications that are ranked in preference, and each month receive an allotment of visa numbers.  U.S. law assigns the Department of State (“DOS”) the task of establishing and administering wait lists of applicants for immigrant visas within these categories.  DOS  recently addressed how it determines a date after which an immigrant visa is no longer available for each of the preference categories for a given month.  That date is known as a cut off date, and DOS publishes a list of the availability of immigrant visas for family, employment and diversity visas which appears in its monthly Visa Bulletin.  To take the final step and become a permanent resident, each qualified immigrant must have a visa available to him or to her.
During each fiscal year, the statutorily set number of immigrant visas to be used in the preference system becomes available – but all visa numbers are not released at once.  According to DOS, each month its Visa Office receives reports from USCIS and from consular posts worldwide of the total number of documentarily qualified immigrant visa applicants. The reports group the number of immigrants by their preference category, generally (but with exceptions) by the foreign state where each applicant was born, and by the date (with exceptions) on which the applicant’s case was filed with USCIS, also known as a priority date.  Added to the calculation is an overall limit of persons from each foreign state.
If the demand for qualified applicants per category is less than the monthly allotment of visa numbers, then the Visa Bulletin lists the category as “Current” (“C”) on the Visa Bulletin chart.  If the opposite is true and there are more qualified applicants than monthly visa numbers available, then the category is “oversubscribed.”  DOS then establishes a “cut off date” for that category.  The cut off date is the first priority date that could not obtain a visa number that month.
Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C.  Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit