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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category22-Aug-118-Aug-11–2 weeks
China22-Aug-118-Aug-11–2 weeks
India22-Aug-118-Aug-11–2 weeks
Mexico1-Aug-971-Aug-97No change
Philippines1-Mar-0715-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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category8-Nov-168-Oct-16–1 month
China8-Nov-168-Oct-16–1 month
India8-Nov-168-Oct-16–1 month
Mexico15-Oct-1622-Sep-16–23 days
Philippines8-Nov-168-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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category15-Mar-1215-Feb-12–1 month
China15-Mar-1215-Feb-12–1 month
India15-Mar-1215-Feb-12–1 month
Mexico8-Jun-978-Jun-97No change
Philippines22-Jun-078-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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category15-Aug-061-Aug-06–2 weeks
China15-Aug-061-Aug-06–2 weeks
India15-Aug-061-Aug-06–2 weeks
Mexico22-Dec-9522-Dec-95No change
Philippines22-Jul-958-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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category22-May-0522-Apr-05–1 month
China22-May-0522-Apr-05–1 month
India15-Jun-048-Jun-04–1 week
Mexico8-Feb-988-Feb-98No change
Philippines1-Sep-9515-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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category1-Oct-171-Jul-17–3 months
China15-Dec-161-Sep-16–3 months, 2 weeks
Central America1-Oct-171-Jul-17–3 months
India15-Dec-161-Sep-16–3 months, 2 weeks
Mexico1-Oct-171-Jul-17–3 months
Philippines1-Oct-171-Jul-17–3 months
Vietnam1-Oct-171-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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
China1-Aug-151-Jul-15–1 month
Central AmericaNo waitNo waitNo change
India1-Apr-091-Apr-09No change
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 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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
China8-Jun-158-Jun-15No change
Central AmericaNo waitNo waitNo change
India1-Mar-091-Mar-09No change
MexicoNo waitNo waitNo change
Philippines22-Jun-1715-Jun-17–1 week
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 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.

CategoryCountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
EB-4: Special ImmigrantsGeneral CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
ChinaNo waitNo waitNo change
Central America22-Feb-1622-Feb-16No change
IndiaNo waitNo waitNo change
Mexico15-Apr-171-Jan-17–3 months, 2 weeks
PhilippinesNo waitNo waitNo change
VietnamNo waitNo waitNo change
CategoryCountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
EB-5: InvestorsGeneral CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
China1-Sep-1422-Aug-14–10 days
Central AmericaNo waitNo waitNo change
IndiaNo waitNo waitNo change
MexicoNo waitNo waitNo change
PhilippinesNo waitNo waitNo change
Vietnam1-Jun-161-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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