The Visa Bulletin: What’s New for January 2019?


Understanding the latest green card waiting lists as of January 2019

Dec 31, 2018


The U.S. Department of State released its Visa Bulletin for January 2019. 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 January 2019 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 (retrogression) for any country in any family-based category or employment-based category this month — hooray!
  • Although the lines for Mexican families did not retrogress, they did continue to stall, with no forward movement in 4 out of the 5 family-based categories. Meanwhile all other countries moved ahead, though somewhat modestly.
  • Employment-based green card and visa applicants have 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. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State, however, told the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that current demand in these categories may only be “artificially high.”
  • Chinese workers are the constant in nearly all employment-based categories, with more delays compared with workers in any other country with a backlog.

(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. For “adjustment of status” applications (those for immigrants already residing in the United States) that are filed in January, however, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has decided to accept such applications based on the “Dates for Filing” (available on the State Department’s website). Oppenheim confirmed to AILA that this is indeed the case but also that USCIS would revert to following the Final Action Dates again in February.)

Read on for details…


Family-Based Green Card Backlogs

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 22-Aug-11 8-Aug-11 –2 weeks
China 22-Aug-11 8-Aug-11 –2 weeks
India 22-Aug-11 8-Aug-11 –2 weeks
Mexico 1-Aug-97 1-Aug-97 No change
Philippines 1-Mar-07 15-Feb-07 –2 weeks

Most countries in this category inch forward after making bigger advances in December, but Mexico makes no progress for the sixth consecutive month:

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

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 8-Nov-16 8-Oct-16 –1 month
China 8-Nov-16 8-Oct-16 –1 month
India 8-Nov-16 8-Oct-16 –1 month
Mexico 15-Oct-16 22-Sep-16 –23 days
Philippines 8-Nov-16 8-Oct-16 –1 month

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

  • One-month advance for the general category, China, India, and the Philippines
  • Over 3-week advance for Mexico

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 15-Mar-12 15-Feb-12 –1 month
China 15-Mar-12 15-Feb-12 –1 month
India 15-Mar-12 15-Feb-12 –1 month
Mexico 8-Jun-97 8-Jun-97 No change
Philippines 22-Jun-07 8-Jun-07 –2 weeks

Most countries move ahead in this category, but Mexico falls behind, making no progress since December:

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

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 15-Aug-06 1-Aug-06 –2 weeks
China 15-Aug-06 1-Aug-06 –2 weeks
India 15-Aug-06 1-Aug-06 –2 weeks
Mexico 22-Dec-95 22-Dec-95 No change
Philippines 22-Jul-95 8-Jul-95 –2 weeks

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

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

F-4: siblings of U.S. citizens

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 22-May-05 22-Apr-05 –1 month
China 22-May-05 22-Apr-05 –1 month
India 15-Jun-04 8-Jun-04 –1 week
Mexico 8-Feb-98 8-Feb-98 No change
Philippines 1-Sep-95 15-Jul-95 –1 month, 17 days

Most countries in this category continue to advance, with strongest movement for the Philippines. Mexico makes no progress for the second month in a row:

  • One-month advance for the general category and China
  • One-week advance for India
  • No movement for Mexico
  • One-month, 17-day advance for the Philippines

Employment-Based Green Card Backlogs

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 1-Oct-17 1-Jul-17 –3 months
China 15-Dec-16 1-Sep-16 –3 months, 2 weeks
Central America 1-Oct-17 1-Jul-17 –3 months
India 15-Dec-16 1-Sep-16 –3 months, 2 weeks
Mexico 1-Oct-17 1-Jul-17 –3 months
Philippines 1-Oct-17 1-Jul-17 –3 months
Vietnam 1-Oct-17 1-Jul-17 –3 months

Strong movement for everyone in this category for the second consecutive month, with China and India making the biggest advances:

  • Three-month advance for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam
  • Three-and-a-half-month advance for China and India

EB-2: exceptional people and advanced degree holders

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category No wait No wait No change
China 1-Aug-15 1-Jul-15 –1 month
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 1-Apr-09 1-Apr-09 No change
Mexico No wait No wait No change
Philippines No wait No wait No change
Vietnam No wait No wait No change

Mostly good news in this category, with no lines for nearly all countries except China and India:

  • Dates remain current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam — no wait, celebrate!
  • One-month advance for China
  • No forward movement for India

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category No wait No wait No change
China 8-Jun-15 8-Jun-15 No change
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 1-Mar-09 1-Mar-09 No change
Mexico No wait No wait No change
Philippines 22-Jun-17 15-Jun-17 –1 week
Vietnam No wait No wait No change

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

  • Dates still current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and Vietnam
  • No forward movement for China and India
  • One-week advance for the Philippines

Finally, just to be complete about all of this: The no-line pattern of previous months continues for EB-4 “special immigrants” from the general category, China, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Central America stalls after slight forward movement in December, while Mexico advances 3.5 months, nearly triple its progress in the previous month. In the EB-5 investor category, only China and Vietnam continue to show uncleared backlogs.

Category Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
EB-4: Special Immigrants General Category No wait No wait No change
China No wait No wait No change
Central America 22-Feb-16 22-Feb-16 No change
India No wait No wait No change
Mexico 15-Apr-17 1-Jan-17 –3 months, 2 weeks
Philippines No wait No wait No change
Vietnam No wait No wait No change
Category Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
EB-5: Investors General Category No wait No wait No change
China 1-Sep-14 22-Aug-14 –10 days
Central America No wait No wait No change
India No wait No wait No change
Mexico No wait No wait No change
Philippines No wait No wait No change
Vietnam 1-Jun-16 1-May-16 –1 month

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, let this cat inspire you to work hard on your New Year’s resolutions.


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