The visa bulletin, published monthly by the U.S. Department of State, is an important resource for immigrants seeking to obtain permanent resident status in the United States.
It determines when an immigrant visa or green card application can be filed, based on the applicant’s priority date. As we enter 2024, there have been several notable updates to the visa bulletin that present new filing opportunities as well as longer wait times in some cases.
This article provides an overview of the key changes and trends in the January and February 2024 visa bulletins.
Filing Opportunities in Employment-Based Categories
In the employment-based categories, we see modest forward movement in some cases along with the maintenance of current priority dates in others.For EB-1 candidates in the extraordinary ability category, the final action dates remain current across all countries, indicating no backlogs.
The EB-1 outstanding professor/researcher category also remains current for all countries except China and India. The EB-2 worldwide category inches forward by 2 weeks in February 2024 to a final action date of November 15, 2022. EB-2 India advances 5 weeks from January 1, 2015 to February 8, 2015. EB-2 China moves forward 1 week to June 1, 2017.
Slower advancement is expected for the remainder of fiscal year 2024 in these oversubscribed categories.EB-3 worldwide sees a small 2 week push to November 15, 2022 for final action dates.
EB-3 India progresses 5 weeks from January 1, 2015 to February 8, 2015. And EB-3 China moves forward 1 week to June 1, 2017. As with EB-2, major jumps are not anticipated through September 2024.U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has also confirmed it will honor the dates for filing charts in both January and February 2024 visa bulletins.
This allows foreign nationals to use the earlier priority dates in these charts to file adjustment of status applications.
Longer Wait Times for Family-Based Categories
Unfortunately, the family-based categories show very limited forward movement in the first months of 2024.
The worldwide final action dates for the F-1 category (unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens) remain stuck at September 1, 2023 with no advancement expected through September 2024. Long waits are projected to continue for F-1 candidates from Mexico, the Philippines, and India as well.
F-2A (spouses and minor children of green card holders) maintains its worldwide final action date of July 1, 2021. F-2B (unmarried adult children of green card holders) stands still at its worldwide date of January 1, 2017. Lengthy backlogs persist across all countries of chargeability for both F-2A and F-2B.
Such stagnation indicates that wait times in the family preference categories will remain substantial going into 2024. Applicants should plan for delays and backlogs to continue barring any changes to immigration legislation.
Diversity Visa Program Continues for 2024
The diversity visa (DV) program, which provides 55,000 immigrant visas through a lottery system each year, is ongoing for DV-2024. The entry period for the 2024 lottery concluded on November 8, 2022. Applicants are now awaiting selection results and further instructions.
Those chosen in the DV-2024 lottery must complete processing and be issued a visa by September 30, 2024 or lose eligibility. Selectees still face lengthy administrative procedures before they can receive permanent residency. But the continuation of the diversity visa lottery presents a valuable opportunity.
Delays and Restrictions Persist for Various Visa Types
While certain applicants stand to benefit from the January and February visa bulletin updates, other visa categories continue to face obstacles:
- Many U.S. consulates and embassies abroad still have limited capacity and services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Appointments for visitor, student, and temporary work visas face lengthy delays as a result.
- Various presidential proclamations introduced over the past few years continue to bar or restrict entry for applicants from specific countries. For example, citizens of Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, and Kyrgyzstan currently cannot obtain diversity, family-based, or certain employment-based visas.
- New restrictions proposed in 2022 threaten to increase visa denials in the future based on factors like income level, age, and use of public benefits. If implemented, these changes could negatively impact children, elderly applicants, and families.
- USCIS faces massive backlogs with nearly 8 million delayed applications across various immigration benefits. Insufficient staffing and outdated systems exacerbate these long processing times.
While positive developments have occurred in some visa categories, many obstacles and uncertainties continue to plague U.S. immigration in 2024.
Applicants must thus remain vigilant and up-to-date in the rapidly shifting landscape.
Key Visa Application Tips for 2024
Given the complexities surrounding U.S. immigration currently, what steps can visa applicants take to navigate the system successfully? Here are some key tips:
1. Thoroughly research your visa type – With frequent changes to policies and processing, make sure to verify all requirements, fees, forms, and eligibility for the specific visa you seek. Consult official government sources like the State Department, USCIS, and U.S. embassies.
2. Prepare strong supporting materials – Visa applications today face heightened scrutiny. Gather extensive documentation on your qualifications, purpose of travel, ability to pay expenses, and intent to depart the U.S.
3. Retain an experienced immigration attorney – As regulations grow more restrictive and complex, an attorney can prove invaluable for presenting a persuasive, compliant case to maximize approval odds.
4. File as early as possible – Early filing ensures your place in line ahead of future backlogs. It also allows time to respond to any Requests for Evidence or overcome any denials.
5. Maintain valid status – If currently in the U.S., carefully preserve your immigration status with proper documentation. Overstays or unauthorized work will require waivers and complicate future applications.
6. Check visa wait times – Once your petition gets approved, frequently check the visa bulletin and estimated wait times relevant to your specific priority date, category, and country of chargeability.
7. Remain vigilant on policy changes – Keep up to date on legal changes through official sites and legal resources. Modify your case strategy as needed. Sign up for USCIS alerts.
8. Prepare for delays and setbacks – Build flexibility into your plans and timeline given the likelihood of processing delays. Be ready to promptly respond to any requests for extra evidence.
With smart preparation, savvy navigation of the immigration system, and prompt response to any obstacles, visa applicants can boost their odds of success even in these challenging times. The visa bulletin serves as an indispensable guide on this journey. Monitor it closely each month and stay informed.
The visa bulletin updates for January and February 2024 reveal a mixed picture for applicants seeking permanent U.S. residence. Those in certain employment-based categories benefit right now from new filing opportunities.
But family-based applicants continue to face substantial backlogs, and barriers persist across many visa types.Going forward, the advancement or stagnation of priority dates in the bulletin will hinge on variables like immigration processing capacity, changing regulations, and new legislation.
Applicants must therefore pay close attention each month and have contingency plans ready.Despite the challenges, pathways still exist for those who craft strong cases and proactively navigate the complex immigration bureaucracy. Hiring experienced legal counsel also boosts approval success.
The diversity visa lottery likewise remains available in 2024, offering a valuable chance at permanent residency through random selection. Those chosen must complete extensive processing in the coming year. But it represents one more avenue to pursue amid restrictive policies.
Careful visa bulletin monitoring and application vigilance empower applicants to handle fluid conditions. Adjust strategies based on the latest priority dates and policy shifts. Leverage all resources to overcome hurdles.
Remain resilient through setbacks. With the right preparation and persistence, your visa approval could still be within reach, even in today’s climate. Use the fresh visa bulletin updates as a compass to chart your way forward successfully.