October 2015 Visa Bulletin: How New System Impacts Family-Based Cases

The recent overhaul of the U.S. Department of State (DOS) visa bulletin system, which goes into effect on October 1, 2015, has generated enormous excitement. While the changes to the visa bulletin tend to primarily benefit those applying for permanent residency (green cards) through the employment-based categories, it is still important for beneficiaries under the family-based (FB) categories to understand how this new policy may impact their respective cases.

Background: ‘Dates for Filing’ Versus ‘Final Action Dates

As explained in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, October 2015 Visa Bulletin: Exciting New System Benefits Backlogged Categories, (10.Sep.2015), the monthly visa bulletin now contains two different charts, each with its own set of cutoff dates for the various immigrant visa categories. One chart is labeled “application final action dates” (FA) and the other is “dates for filing” (DF).

The dates in the FA chart reflect the eligibility for approval of a pending form I-485, application for adjustment of status (AOS), or, for those cases filed for consular processing, issuance of an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate. The FA dates can also be used as a basis for filing an I-485. Essentially, the FA chart functions the same as the single chart provided in the previous version of the visa bulletin.

The dates on the DF chart, on the other hand, indicate when an applicant for consular processing should expect to “… be notified to assemble and submit required documentation to the National Visa Center.” Each month, the visa bulletin may also indicate that the DF dates can be used as a basis to file for AOS, as is the case with the October 2015 Visa Bulletin. This is important because the DF chart cutoff dates will tend to be later, and thus more favorable, than those found in the FA chart. However, the applicant must still otherwise be eligible to apply for AOS in order to benefit from this change in the visa bulletin process.

Revised Visa Bulletin of Little Benefit for Most FB Cases

Unfortunately, in most situations, the beneficiary of an FB petition has no choice but to remain abroad and have the case filed for consular processing. One primary reason for this is that, in order to file for AOS, the individual typically must be in the United States in valid status at the time the priority date is current. This can takes years from the point of filing the immigrant petition, so unless the individual is able to enter the U.S. and maintain lawful status long-term, such as while working in an H1B or L-1 position, the beneficiary usually must wait abroad.

Visa Bulletin Still Does Not Apply to Family-Based Immediate Relative Cases

The DOS visa bulletin charts for FB cases apply to the preference categories, only. Cases that fall within the immediate relative category are not subject to cutoff dates, and therefore are not impacted by this change to the visa bulletin system. Immigration law defines an immediate relative as the spouse, parent, or minor child of U.S. citizen.

Family-Based, First Preference (FB1)

The FB1 category is for unmarried sons and daughters (21 or over) of U.S. citizens. For beneficiaries born in all countries other than Mexico and the Philippines, the FA cutoff date in this category for October 2015 is January 15, 2008. The DF chart has a more favorable cutoff date of May 1, 2009. The FA cutoff date for FB1 Philippines is June 1, 2001, while the DF cutoff date is several years later, at September 1, 2005. FB1 Mexico lags far behind, with an FA cutoff date of November 22, 1994, and a DF date of July 1, 1995.

Family-Based, Second Preference (FB2A and FB2B)

The FB2A category applies to spouses and children of permanent residents. The FB2A cutoff date in the FA chart for all countries other than Mexico is April 15, 2014. The FA cutoff date for FB2A Mexico is just a month behind, at March 1, 2014. The DF cutoff date in this category for all countries is quite favorable, at March 1, 2015.

The FB2B category is for unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older) of U.S. permanent residents. This category continues to be backlogged, with an FA cutoff date of January 15, 2009 for all countries except Mexico and the Philippines. The FA cutoff date for Mexico is August 1, 1995, while for the Philippines has an October 1, 2004 cutoff date. The DF cutoff dates in this category for all countries other than Mexico and the Philippines is July 1, 2010. FB2B Mexico has a DF cutoff date of January 1, 1996, while the Philippines’ DF date is set at January 1, 2005.

Family-Based, Third Preference (FB3)

The FB3 category, which is for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, remains substantially backlogged. The FA cutoff date for all countries other than Mexico and the Philippines is May 22, 2004. Mexico’s cutoff date is June 8, 1994, and the Philippines has an October 1, 1993 cutoff date.

The DF cutoff date for countries other than Mexico and the Philippines is April 1, 2005. Mexico and the Philippines have cutoff dates of October 1, 1996 and August 1, 1995, respectively.

Family-Based, Fourth Preference (EB4)

Much like FB3, the FB4 category for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens is extremely backlogged. The cutoff date in this category for all countries except for Mexico and the Philippines in the FA chart is February 8, 2003. Mexico’s cutoff date is March 22, 1997, while the Philippines is set at May 1, 1992.

The DF chart is only slightly better, with a cutoff date of February 1, 2004 for all countries except for Mexico and the Philippines. Mexico’s DF cutoff date is May 1, 1998, and the Philippine’s DF date is January 1, 1993.


It may be disappointing that many beneficiaries of FB petitions will not benefit from the changes made to the visa bulletin process. Still, there are those who will be able to apply for AOS and benefit from the revised system. Please subscribe to the free MurthyBulletin for future updates regarding the visa bulletin.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.