The operation of the immigrant numerical control system – Part I


By Michael Phulwani

The Department of State is responsible for administering the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) relating to the numerical limitations on immigrant visa issuances. This information sheet explains the operation of the immigrant number allotment  and control system. This is  the first part of a two-part article.

1. How the system operates:

At the beginning of each month, the Visa Office (VO) receives a report from each consular post listing totals  of documentarily qualified immigrant visa applicants in categories subject to numerical limitation. Cases are grouped by foreign state chargeability/preference/priority date. No names are reported. During the first week of each month, this documentarily qualified demand is tabulated.

VO subdivides the annual preference and foreign state limitations specified by the INA into monthly allotments. The totals of documentarily qualified applicants which have been reported to VO,  are compared each month with the numbers available for the next regular allotment. The determination of how many numbers are available requires consideration of several of variables, including: past number use; estimates of future number use and return rates; and estimates of Citizenship and Immigration Service demand  based  on cut-off date movements. Once this is done, the cut-off dates are established and numbers are allocated to reported applicants in order of their priority dates, the oldest dates first.

If there are sufficient numbers in a particular category to satisfy all reported documentarily qualified demand, the category is considered “Current.” For example: If the monthly allocation target is 3,000 and we only have demand for 1,000 applicants the category can be “Cur-rent.”

Whenever the total of documentarily qualified applicants in a category exceeds the supply of numbers available for allotment for the particular month, the category is  considered to be “oversubscribed” and a visa availability cut-off date is established. The cut-off date is the  priority date of the first documentarily qualified applicant who could not be accommodated for a visa number.  For example: If the monthly target is 3,000 and we have demand for 8,000 applicants, then we would need to establish a cut-off date so that only 3,000 numbers would be allocated. In this case, the cut-off would be the priority date of the 3,001st applicant.

Only persons with a priority date earlier than a cut-off date are entitled to allotment of a visa number. The cut-off dates are the 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd of a month, since VO groups demand for numbers under these dates. (Priority dates of the first through seventh of a month are grouped under the 1st, the eighth through the fourteenth under the 8th, etc.)

VO attempts to establish the cut-off dates for the following month on or about the 8th of each month. The dates are immediately transmitted to consular posts and Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), and also published in the Visa Bulletin and online at the CA Web site ( Visa allotments for use during that month are transmitted to consular posts. CIS requests visa allotments for adjustment of status cases only when all other case processing has been completed.

2. Definition of some terms:

Priority date: Normally, the date on which the petition to accord the applicant immigrant status was filed.

Allotment: The allocation of an immigrant number to a consular office or to CIS. This number may be used for visa issuance or adjustment of status.
Foreign State Chargeability: Ordinarily, an immigrant is chargeable for visa purposes to the numerical limitation  for the foreign state or dependent area in which the immigrant’s place of birth is located. Exceptions are provided for a child (unmarried and under 21 years of age) or spouse accompanying or following to join a principal to prevent the separation of family members, as well  as for an applicant born in the US or in a foreign state of which neither parent was a native or resident. Alternate chargeability is desirable when the visa cut-off date for the foreign state of a parent or spouse is more advantageous than that of the applicant’s foreign state.

Documentarily Qualified: The applicant has obtained all documents specified by   the consular officer as sufficient to meet the formal  visa application requirements, and necessary processing  procedures of the consular office have been completed.

To be continued…

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