Francisco never bothered to learn about the visa bulletin. His turn to get his green card came up, he didn’t know it and forever missed his chance to become a permanent resident. Patricia learned to read the visa bulletin, she checked it frequently, and when her turn came up she, her husband, and her 20-year old son all became permanent residents. These are true stories, but unfortunately I see many more Franciscos than Patricias. So now let’s do like Patricia, who knew that all good things come to those who hurry while they wait.

The visa bulletin notifies millions of intending immigrants waiting for their turn that it’s time to apply for permanent residency. Reading the visa bulletin is very easy. All you need to know is (1) your preference category and (2) your priority date.

(1) Preference category: Your preference category is one of the following:

  • F1: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 and over) of U.S. citizens.
  • F2A: Spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents.
  • F2B: Unmarried adult sons and daughters 21 and over of permanent residents.
  • F3: Married sons and daughters (of any age) of U.S. citizens.
  • F4: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens

Caution: Please confirm your preference category with an experienced immigration lawyer. It can automatically change due to marriage, divorce, age, or a change in the petitioner’s immigration status.

(2) Priority date: You should find the priority date on your I-130 approval notice. Double-check it to ensure it’s the date USCIS received the petition in the mail. We often see where USCIS assigns the date it processed the petition into their computer system. This date can be days or weeks after the actual receipt date. It’s mistake that can cost years of additional waiting.

Now you’re ready to read the visa bulletin. Just find your column (based on your nationality), and then your row (based on the preference category.) The two intersect on a date. This date means that visas are available (or it’s time to immigrate) to those nationals in that preference category with a priority date earlier than the listed date. And that’s it.

July 2012 Visa Bulletin, Family Preferences


  • I’m Mexican and married to a permanent resident. Based on the table above (July 2012 visa bulletin) visas are available to those with priority dates earlier than February 1, 2010.
  • I’m the Dominican brother of a U.S. citizen. Based on the table above, visas are available to those with priority dates earlier than January 22, 2001.
  • I’m the Filipino married daughter of a U.S. citizen. Based on the table above, visas are available to those with priority dates earlier than July 22, 1992.


Q: Mr. Pineda, do you as an attorney have inside information to accurately predict visa availability?

A: No. I can roughly estimate visa availability based on historical data and experience. Neither attorneys or immigration officers have access to any special information. We too eagerly anticipate the next visa bulletin and hoard past visa bulletins for future reference.

Q: Where can I obtain the full copy of the visa bulletin?

A: From the State Department’s website.

Q: What happens if I marry? Do I lose my petition?

A: Maybe so don’t marry until you consult with me.

Q: Are my children included in the petition?

A: Yes, even children who are born after the petition is filed. The real question is, however, whether they’ll immigrate with you. Unfortunately, we have to wait until it’s your turn to immigrate to answer that seemingly simple question.

Q: Will I be notified when my turn comes up on the visa bulletin?

A: It depends. If your petition is at USCIS, then no, you won’t be notified. If, however, your petition is at the National Visa Center, then yes, you’ll be notified about one year earlier, so make sure—and this is critical—that NVC has your current address. Else you run the great risk of your petition being terminated and losing everything.