Everything EB-3 applicants need to know about the Visa Bulletin

Guide to the visa bulletin and retrogression

Applying for a green card can be a long and difficult process. There can be long stretches of silence from the government, leaving an applicant wondering what is happening with their case, and how much longer it will take.  The State Department tries to provide answers to some of these questions by publishing a document showing everyone’s “place in line” for receiving a green card. That document is called the Visa Bulletin.

What is the visa bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin gives applicants an estimate for the expected timeline to obtain a Green Card. The Visa Bulletin is issued monthly 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 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 up to 10,000 visas may be used 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. You can think of the priority date as your place in line, because it determines when your green card application can be filed and when your green card can be issued. If your priority date is not current for green card filing on the Visa Bulletin (meaning that your priority date is after the cutoff date), the employer can file the I-140 petition, but you will not yet be able to file your actual green card application.

The dates you see on the Visa Bulletin are called cut-off dates. Your priority date must be before the cut-off date on the Visa Bulletin on the Date for Filing chart to file the I-485 application and before the Final Action Date to receive your green card.

What is the difference between “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing”?

The “Final Action Dates” represent the dates when an immigrant visa number will be available for a foreign national with a current priority date. This date is crucial because it indicates when the foreign nationals' Green Card can be issued. It is important to note that a Green Card cannot be issued unless the priority date is earlier than the Final Action date listed on the visa bulletin.  

In the cases where USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants, the “Dates for Filing” chart will be used. The Dates for Filing indicate the earliest time when a foreign national can apply for their Green Card.

How do I read the Visa Bulletin?

To make it easier for foreign nationals to track their place in line, USCIS posts a shortened version of the visa bulletin on its website and clarifies which chart the foreign national should use. To find your current place in line for the visa bulletin start by going to this USCIS page, Adjustment of Status Filing Charts from the Visa Bulletin | USCIS.  

You will see this:  

Look for, "Employment-Based Preference Filings" and in the description it lists “Final Action Dates” or “Dates for Filing”. For February 2024, they are using “Dates for Filing”.  

Then click on USCIS February 2024 Adjustment of Status Filing Charts, once you click on that you will be taken to the visa bulletin. Please look at the Employment-Based chart, USCIS only lists two charts. One is for family sponsors cases and the other is for employment based. The EB3 unskilled category is “Other Workers” and February 2024 we will look under
“Dates for Filing for Employment-Based Adjustment of Status Applications”.

These dates are called "Cutoff" dates, the cutoff date is December 15, 2020. This means that everyone who filed their LC on December 15, 2020, or before can file their I-485. We must wait until this date is current (shows your priority date) or has a "C" in that box. When it has a "C" that means "current".  

For those who are Consular Processing, this means everyone who filed their LC on December 15, 2020, or before can start the process of becoming documentarily qualified.  

For example, for Adjustment of Status, if my priority date is 4/12/2022, then I must wait until “Other Workers” shows the date 04/12/2022 or has a "C" in that box to be able to file the I-485/Green Card application.

On the other hand, for Consular Processing, if my priority date is 4/12/2022, then I must wait until “Other Workers” shows the date 04/12/2022 or has a "C" in that box to be able to become documentarily qualified and then wait for the embassy to schedule my visa interview.


If there are more Green Card applications than Green Cards legally available, the Visa Bulletin may experience retrogression, meaning that cut-off dates may move in reverse. This occurs as the government works to manage demand and processing to stay within the visa limit. BDV's Government Relations Team responds to Retrogression in several ways, which you can read about here.

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 to current.

How does this impact Adjustment of Status clients?

This impacts Adjustment of Status clients by not being able to file the I-485, I-131, or I-765 at this time due to the priority date not being current on the Visa Bulletin. Work Authorization (I-765) and Travel Permits (I-131) applications are dependent on the filing of a Green Card Application. Because retrogression is currently in effect, the Green Card Application (Form I-485) cannot be filed, and therefore, the Work Authorization application cannot be filed. We must wait for your priority date to become current on the visa bulletin to file the I-485, I-131 and I765.  

How does this impact Consular Processing clients?

Consular Processing, applicants file the DS-260 (Online Immigrant Visa Application) through the Department of State's Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). This process involves attending an interview at a US embassy or consulate in their home country or country of residence. The Visa Bulletin impacts Consular Processing by determining when your interview is able to be scheduled and when your visa can be issued.  

Another important factor to consider is that the timing of your interview may vary depending on the availability of specific consulates. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many consular posts are operating at reduced capacity. For more information on scheduling an immigrant visa appointment, please visit the Department of State’s website.

Should I be concerned? What do I need to know for the future of my case and the timing?

No, there is no cause for concern. It is best to be prepared with these time frames by looking at the visa bulletin once a month. It is important for applicants to closely monitor the Visa Bulletin to better understand their position in the processing queue.

Check outour Frequently Asked
Questions and clear your doubts

  • What is your pricing? Do you have payment plans?
  • Can I apply from outside the United States?
  • How long does the EB-3 Unskilled Visa Process take?
  • Can I include my family in this process?
Read more