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Understanding the Visa Bulletin

Introduction United States employment and family-based permanent visas, green cards, are limited each year by number and by country of origin. In 2019, there will be no more than 226,000 family-sponsored visas and no more than 140,000 employment-based visas. The United States further limits employment and family-based immigration by only allowing 7% of visa to originate from one country. This is not a quota and the United States is not required to admit a specified number of foreign nationals from one country, but rather a ceiling and the United States cannot admit more than 7% of the total visas issued to foreign nationals from one country. In 2019, approximately 25,620 visas are equivalent to 7%. The system creates a backlog and visas are awarded on a first come, first serve basis.  To address the backlog, the Department of State and the USCIS created a complex system of priority dates. When a priority date is current, a foreign national may apply for permanent residence. Current means that a foreign national’s individual priority date would be on or before the date published in the monthly Visa Bulletin. Paying close attention to the priority dates is important for establishing permanent residency under the employment or family visa categories.

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