What is the Visa Bulletin?

Chris Richardson
June 4, 2022

The Visa Bulletin gives applicants an estimate for the expected timeline to obtain a Green Card. The Visa Bulletin is issued on a monthly basis by the State Department. Its main function is to show the availability for which green card applications can be filed and which of those can be moved forward for Green Card issuance.

The Visa Bulletin exists to keep record of the of green cards that can be issued yearly and to alert applicants when the cap limit is reached. The Visa Bulletin breaks down the green cards into category and country specific caps (the country specific caps are meant to maintain a diverse immigrant population). The Visa cap for third category employment-based visas (EB-3) is set to 40,000, and more specifically 10,000 visas are set aside for EB-3 Unskilled. When there is an increase in demand for these visas without an increase in availability, a backlog typically occurs.

Priority Dates

Priority dates determine when your green card application can be filed and when your green card can be issued. For EB-3 applicants, the priority date is the date the Labor Certification document (Form 9089) was filed. Applicants should pay close attention to the Visa Bulletin for a clear understanding of their place in line when it comes to processing.  

If your priority date is before the listed cut-off date listed on the Visa Bulletin, you can file an application for a Green Card (the I-485). In contrast, when the priority date falls after the listed cut-off date, you must wait for your priority date to become current again to move forward with I-485 filing.


When the number of Green Card applications exceeds the expected number of filings, the Visa Bulletin may go into retrogression, or reflect cut-off dates that move backward. This happens as the government tries to balance the demand and processing to stay within the visa cap.

While Visa Retrogression may impact various cases, the goal is for the processing and issuance of Green Cards to catch up with demand so that the government can resume normal processing times and gradually bring the priority dates back to current.