What is a Priority Date? – Why the long wait for Green Cards, Residency, Visas, etc?

In this video attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers your most frequently asked questions regarding the visa bulletin.


Family preference and employment immigrant categories are subject to numerical limitations and are divided by preference systems and priority dates on the Visa Bulletin. Applicants who fall under family preference or employment categories must wait in line until a visa becomes available to them in order to proceed with their immigrant visa applications. Once the immigrant’s priority date becomes current according to the Visa Bulletin, the applicant can proceed with their immigrant visa application.

What is a priority date?

priority date is generally the date when your relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on your behalf with USCIS.

What is the visa waiting list?

The visa waiting list refers to those cases where the petition from the U.S. sponsor has been approved, but they still cannot proceed with processing because of statutory limits on the total number of visas and the per-country limits. According to the U.S. Department of State, family-sponsored preference categories are limited to a minimum of 226,000 visas per year, while employment-based preference categories are limited to a minimum of 140,000 visas per year.  (Note: this excludes spouses, parents, and minor children of U.S. Citizens, who are the highest priority for immigration and are exempt from immigration caps).

How long do I need to wait in line before my priority date becomes current? 

The length of time you must wait in line before receiving an immigrant visa or adjusting status depends on: 1) the demand for and supply of immigrant visa numbers; 2) the per country visa limitations; and 3) the number of visas allocated for your particular preference category.

You can check the status of a visa number by checking your priority date on the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin published every month. The Visa Bulletin estimates immigrant visa availability for prospective immigrants.

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