Retrogression of Immigrant Visa Priority Dates

Ask the Consul

Installment One Hundred and Eight

U.S. immigration law limits the number of immigrant visas that can be issued each year. Based on the number of visas that can be issued and the number of visa applicants who have submitted all the necessary documents for an interview, “cutoff dates” are created each month. If an applicant’s priority date (application date) falls before the cutoff date, the applicant is eligible to receive a visa number, which then begins the interview process. Recently, the cutoff dates for some family-sponsored immigrant visas were pushed back (or retrogressed) by 1-2 years.

Why has this happened?

From early 2009 through September 2010, the demand for visa numbers in the family-sponsored preference categories was very low. In an effort to generate demand to issue all the visas possible for the year, the cut-off dates for most family-sponsored preference categories were advanced at a very rapid pace. However, this resulted in a more dramatic increase in applicant demand than projected. This required a retrogression of the cut-off dates to hold the numbers within the legal limits. Further retrogressions are possible in the future if demand continues at current levels.

What family-sponsored preference categories does this affect?

This affects all family-sponsored preference visa cases, including:

— F1 (unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen),

— F2A (spouse of Lawful Permanent Resident),

— F2B (unmarried son or daughter of Lawful Permanent Resident),

— F3 (married son or daughter of U.S. citizen),

— and F4 (brother or sister or U.S. citizen at least 21 years of age).

What does this mean for me?

With the exception of a very few cases, those families who have already interviewed at the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown will not be affected. Any family in the interview stage that could be affected has already been notified by the embassy. For applicants in the affected family-sponsored preference categories who had not received a visa number by December 2010, obtaining visa numbers to start the interview process will now take one to two years longer than before.

What are the current cutoff dates?

If your priority date falls before the date for your visa classification, you are eligible to obtain a visa number.
F1 January 1st, 2005

F2A January 1st, 2008

F2B April 15th, 2003

F3 January 1st, 2001

F4 January 1st, 2002

Where can I get more information?

Monthly cutoff dates can be found by visiting and clicking on “Visa Bulletin.” Additionally, the Department of State has a recorded message with visa information which can be heard by calling: 202-663-1541. This recording will be updated in the middle of each month with information on cut-off dates for the following month. Note that there may be charges associated with calling this U.S. number.

“Ask the Consul” is a fortnightly column from the U.S. Embassy answering questions about U.S. immigration law and visa issues. If you have a general question about visa policy please email it to us at We select questions every other week and publish the answers in Stabroek News and on our website at .

Information about visas and travel can be viewed at http://,, and at Applicants are strongly encouraged to prepare their own documents and avoid third-party advice. U.S. Consular rules change frequently and non-US government advisors often provide inadequate or inaccurate information.

Other than the questions we select, we DO NOT respond to questions sent to Ask the Consul. Please contact the visa inquiries unit (email visageorge@state. gov or call 225-7965 between 8 am and 4 pm Monday through Friday) if you have questions about a specific case.

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