The Visa Bulletin: What’s New for December 2018?


Understanding the green card waiting lists as of December 2018

Dec 1, 2018


The U.S. Department of State released its Visa Bulletin for December 2018. That’s a big deal if you’re waiting for your priority date to be current so that your green card application can move forward.

If you don’t know what a “visa bulletin” or a “priority date” is, never fear — you’re a normal human being, and we’ve got you covered. Start by checking out the Boundless guide on How to Read the Visa Bulletin.

Now let’s continue…

The Bottom Line

The December 2018 Visa Bulletin brings some new movement in wait times for both the family-based (“FB”) and employment-based (“EB”) green card categories. Here are the key developments:

  • No backward movement for any country in any category this month.
  • Most countries moved ahead in the family-based categories, but gains were modest overall.
  • A pattern of no progress continues for Mexican families, particularly relatives of U.S. citizens.
  • Employment-based green card and visa applicants generally fared better than relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders (permanent residents). In almost every category, workers from just a few countries must wait in line for a visa number this month.
  • Chinese workers are the constant in nearly all employment-based categories, with more delays compared with workers in any other country with a backlog.
  • The lines are finally moving for EB-1 workers, ending a persistent logjam, but whether progress will continue remains to be seen.

(Wonky technical note: This post focuses on the “final action dates” in the visa bulletin, since these dates are most relevant for figuring out when applicants will ultimately receive their green cards.)

Read on for details…


Family-Based Green Card Backlogs

F-1: unmarried children (age 21 and older) of U.S. citizens

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category8-Aug-1122-Jun-11–1 month, 17 days
China8-Aug-1122-Jun-11–1 month, 17 days
India8-Aug-1122-Jun-11–1 month, 17 days
Mexico1-Aug-971-Aug-97No change
Philippines15-Feb-071-Feb-07– 14 days

Most countries in this category move forward, but Mexico makes no progress for the fifth consecutive month:

  • One-month, 2-week, and 2-day advance for the general category, China, and India
  • No forward movement for Mexico
  • Two-week advance for the Philippines

F-2A: spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of U.S. green card holders

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category8-Oct-1615-Sep-16–23 days
China8-Oct-1615-Sep-16–23 days
India8-Oct-1615-Sep-16–23 days
Mexico22-Sep-161-Sep-16–21 days
Philippines8-Oct-1615-Sep-16–23 days

All countries move forward in this category, with Mexico making slightly smaller progress than the rest:

  • Three-week, 2-day advance for the general category, China, India, and the Philippines
  • Three-week advance for Mexico

F-2B: unmarried children (age 21 or older) of U.S. green card holders

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category15-Feb-121-Jan-12– 1 month, 14 days
China15-Feb-121-Jan-12– 1 month, 14 days
India15-Feb-121-Jan-12– 1 month, 14 days
Mexico8-Jun-971-Jun-97–7 days
Philippines8-Jun-071-Jun-07–7 days

Everyone in this category moves ahead, with very similar progress as in November:

  • One-month, 2-week advance for the general category, China, and India
  • One-week advance for Mexico and the Philippines

F-3: married children of U.S. citizens

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category1-Aug-068-Jul-06–24 days
China1-Aug-068-Jul-06–24 days
India1-Aug-068-Jul-06–24 days
Mexico22-Dec-9522-Dec-95No change
Philippines8-Jul-9522-Jun-95–16 days

Most countries in this category show modest forward movement, but Mexico remains at a standstill for the third month in a row:

  • More than 3-week advance for the general category, China, and India
  • No movement for Mexico
  • More than 2-week advance for the Philippines

F-4: siblings of U.S. citizens

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category22-Apr-0522-Mar-05–1 month
China22-Apr-0522-Mar-05–1 month
India8-Jun-041-Jun-04–7 days
Mexico8-Feb-988-Feb-98No change
Philippines15-Jul-9515-Jun-95–1 month

Most countries in this category continue to advance, with strongest movement for the general category, China, and the Philippines. Mexico slows down again after making a modest gain in November, which followed a long spell of 0 movement:

  • One-month advance for the general category, China, and the Philippines
  • One-week advance for India
  • No movement for Mexico

Employment-Based Green Card Backlogs

EB-1: extraordinary people, outstanding researchers and professors, and multinational executives and managers

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category1-Jul-171-Apr-17–3 months
China1-Sep-161-Jun-16–3 months
Central America1-Jul-171-Apr-17–3 months
India1-Sep-161-Jun-16–3 months
Mexico1-Jul-171-Apr-17–3 months
Philippines1-Jul-171-Apr-17–3 months
Vietnam1-Jul-171-Apr-17–3 months

Three-month advance for everyone in this category after 0 movement in November.


EB-2: exceptional people and advanced degree holders

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
China1-Jul-1515-May-15–1 month, 16 days
Central AmericaNo waitNo waitNo change
India1-Apr-0926-Mar-09–6 days
MexicoNo waitNo waitNo change
PhilippinesNo waitNo waitNo change
VietnamNo waitNo waitNo change

Mostly good news in this category, with no lines for nearly all countries. Slowdowns continue for China and India, following big leaps in October:

  • Dates remain current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam — no wait, celebrate!
  • One-month, 2-week, and 2-day advance for China
  • Six-day advance for India

EB-3: bachelor’s degree holders, skilled workers, and unskilled workers

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
China8-Jun-151-Jun-15–7 days
Central AmericaNo waitNo waitNo change
India1-Mar-091-Jan-09–2 months
MexicoNo waitNo waitNo change
Philippines15-Jun-178-Jun-17–7 days
VietnamNo waitNo waitNo change

No lines for half of the countries in this category, plus the general category, a repeat of the previous month. Movement picks up again for India and China after stalling in November. The Philippines continues to make sluggish gains:

  • Dates still current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and Vietnam
  • Two-month advance for India
  • One-week advance for China and the Philippines

Finally, just to be complete about all of this: The no-line pattern continues for EB-4 “special immigrants” from the general category, China, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Central America moves ahead slightly, while Mexico advances 1 month, plus an extra 10 days, 33% more movement than in November. In the EB-5 investor category, China moves ahead very modestly after no forward progress in November, while Vietnam makes three times its gains from the previous month.

CategoryCountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
EB-4: Special ImmigrantsGeneral CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
 ChinaNo waitNo waitNo change
 Central America22-Feb-1615-Feb-16–7 days
 IndiaNo waitNo waitNo change
 Mexico1-Jan-1722-Nov-16–1 month, 10 days
 PhilippinesNo waitNo waitNo change
 VietnamNo waitNo waitNo change
CategoryCountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
EB-5: InvestorsGeneral CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
 China22-Aug-1415-Aug-14–7 days
 Central AmericaNo waitNo waitNo change
 IndiaNo waitNo waitNo change
 MexicoNo waitNo waitNo change
 PhilippinesNo waitNo waitNo change
 Vietnam1-May-161-Feb-16–3 months

Why This Matters

If you’re in line for a green card, it’s important to keep track of actual changes (and likely future developments) in the Visa Bulletin. It’s always a good idea to prepare all the documents needed for your green card application ahead of time, so you can be ready to file as quickly as possible once the Visa Bulletin shows that a green card is available to you. By failing to file in a month when a green card is available, you risk facing a surprise backward movement (“retrogression”) in the next Visa Bulletin, which would close your window of opportunity for filing a green card application.

Stay tuned for next month’s update! As always, we’ll highlight all the important changes for you. In the meantime, here’s how to make your grandma feel special this Thanksgiving (even if she’s not your favorite cook).


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