Visa Bulletin 101

I guess you were wandering on the Internet looking for the information and teaching yourself how to read the visa bulletin posted on the US Department of State (DOS) and the USCIS website every month … until you ended up here. If you think you are an expert on the visa bulletin, good for you! If you have no idea, I'll walk you through reading the visa bulletin process. If that's not enough, I'll also offer you a much better option to have the information from the visa bulletin at your fingertips!

What is the visa bulletin

It provides an updated waiting list for immigrants that are subject to the quota system. If you are a Green Card applicant and have already had Form I-130 or I-140 approved, a significant number of applicants start looking up to the visa bulletin, because it indicates when is your turn to apply for Form I-485 or move on to the next step in order to have a visa interview.

How to read the visa bulletin

First, double check your visa type, priority date, and country of origin before moving on to the visa bulletin, so that you don't read a wrong column. Priority date is like a ticket in your hand and lets you know your turn to apply for Form I-485 or the rest of the consular processing. In general, priority date is assigned to you in a notice letter that you receive when you filed Form I-130 or I-140 with USCIS. Country of origin isn't necessarily the same as your current citizenship. Rather, it means where you were born.

The DOS website updates the visa bulletin every month. You should know if your priority date is "current" when your priority date is earlier than or equal to the "cut-off date" in the column. But which dates should you refer to between "dates for filing" and "final action dates"? If you apply outside the U.S., you need to check the dates for filing. Applicants in the U.S. usually refer to the final action dates. However, depending on the available number of visas every month, USCIS advises applicants of specific visa types to check the dates for filing instead. In other words, when you process a visa application in the U.S., keep an eye on the USCIS instruction of the visa bulletin.

Where to find the visa bulletin

Even if you still don't understand how to read the visa bulletin, there's another way to figure it out, but in a much better way. You don't even have to look up the official visa bulletin anymore every month.

Turn on the Lawfully app and select "Visa Bulletin" in the main page. First, give yourself 1 minute to enter the priority date, country of origin and visa type, and pull up your own visa bulletin.


This page provides your visa information followed by the visa bulletin this month. You can check right away how much progress the visa bulletin of your visa type has made from last month.

Click on your visa type to explore a visa bulletin history of your visa type with details. The progress of the final action date and date for filing is beautifully displayed in a bar graph, where you can conveniently compare two dates in terms of their progress.


If you need a different angle, a line chart in "Trend" below shows the visa bulletin history for your visa type by final action date and date for filing. You can select different ranges to track the history from the last 6 months, 1 year to 2 year to 3 year. The same information is also provided in a table form, if you prefer reading the texts.

Lawfully visa bulletin is well designed for visa applicants to be able to filter out irrelevant information from the entire visa bulletin without having to check it on the USCIS or DOS website. Turn on notifications and sit back, then you will automatically receive monthly updates on the visa bulletin and see if it's time to start the rest of your visa application.

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