The Visa Bulletin: What’s New for January 2020


The latest green card waiting lists as of January 2020, with predictions from a State Department official

Jan 2, 2020


The U.S. Department of State released its Visa Bulletin for January 2020. 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, we’ve got you covered. Start by checking out the Boundless guide on How to Read the Visa Bulletin.

If you’re already familiar with those terms, skip ahead to our summary of key developments or to the filing category that’s most relevant to you:

Family-based categories

Employment-based categories


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The Bottom Line

The January 2020 Visa Bulletin brings some new movement in wait times for both the family- (“F”) and employment-based (“EB”) green card categories.

The following key developments combine analysis by Boundless and insight from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), which checks in every month with Charles “Charlie” Oppenheim, Chief of the State Department’s Visa Control and Reporting Division, for his assessment of “current trends and future projections.” The AILA insights below were excerpted from AILA Doc. No. 14071401.

In family-based categories:

  • While F-2A dates remain current, Oppenheim plans to impose final action dates within the next few months across all categories for this visa.
  • There has been increased demand for F-4 visas since October 2019, but Oppenheim says there will most likely be a category-wide retrogression of dates and those dates will be held for a “period of time”.
  • Additional predicted advances in the next few months include “up to six weeks” for F1 categories, up to 3 weeks for F2B, and 1-3 weeks for F3 visa categories.

In employment-based categories:

  • While EB-1 China and EB-1 India demand remains high, the remainder of world demand has eased off and is currently lower than Oppenheim’s monthly use target. If this trend continues, EB-1 Worldwide (including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, Mexico, Philippines, and Vietnam) could possibly become current by summer 2020.
  • Although Oppenheim had earlier warned of possible retrogression in the EB-2 Worldwide and EB-3 Worldwide categories as early as January 2020, these continue to remain current for this month.
  • Oppenheim expects a Final Action Date for EB-4 India no later than July 2020 as the current demand level is high compared to past years. Additionally, there will be little forward movement for EB-4 Mexico and little if any movement through May 2020 for EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
  • Finally, EB-5 China could potentially advance at a “slightly faster pace,” while EB-5 India is likely to advance at a “very rapid pace” until higher levels of demand arise.

Wonky technical note: This post focuses on the “Final Action Dates” in the Visa Bulletin because these dates are most relevant for figuring out when applicants will ultimately receive their green cards.

Every month, however, USCIS announces whether applicants already living in the United States should file their “adjustment of status” applications based on the “Final Action Dates” or the “Dates for Filing.”

For January, all family-based visa applicants — except those in the F-2A category — must use the “Dates for Filing” (available on the State Department’s website), whereas F-2A and employment-based visa applicants must use the “Final Action Dates.” Applicants filing from outside the United States must follow the Final Action Dates.

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 Category15-Jul-1315-May-13-2 months
China15-Jul-1315-May-13-2 months
India15-Jul-1315-May-13-2 months
Mexico8-Aug-978-Aug-97No Change
Philippines15-Jan-091-Nov-08-2 months, 2 weeks

This category sees some movement for most countries, but again Mexico experiences a stalemate:

  • All countries, except Mexico, see progress, by at least 2 months
  • The Philippines advances by 2 months and 2 weeks, after slowing in December

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 CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
ChinaNo waitNo waitNo change
IndiaNo waitNo waitNo change
MexicoNo waitNo waitNo change
PhilippinesNo waitNo waitNo change
  • This category has seen no change, with all countries remaining current.

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 Category8-Aug-148-Aug-14No Change
China8-Aug-148-Aug-14No Change
India8-Aug-148-Aug-14No Change
Mexico22-Aug-9822-Aug-98No Change
Philippines1-Feb-091-Dec-08-2 months

In January, there is no forward movement for almost all countries in the category, with the exception of the Philippines

  • Two-month advance for the Philippines, continuing on an advancing trend dating from October.

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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category15-Nov-078-Nov-07-1 week
China15-Nov-078-Nov-07-1 week
India15-Nov-078-Nov-07-1 week
Mexico1-Mar-9622-Feb-96-1 week, 1 day
Philippines1-Jan-991-Sep-98-4 months

All countries in this category slow significantly to around one-week but no country stalls; even Mexico sees an advance despite previously not moving in December :

  • One-week advances for General Category, India, and China.
  • Four-month advance for the Philippines.
  • One-week and one-day advance for Mexico.

F-4: siblings of U.S. citizens

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category1-Feb-071-Feb-07No Change
China1-Feb-071-Feb-07No Change
India8-Nov-041-Nov-04-1 week
Mexico8-Jan-9815-Dec-97-3 weeks, 1 day
Philippines1-Mar-9915-Dec-98-2 months, 2 weeks

Most countries see moderate forward movement, except the General Category and China:

      • The Philippines sees a two-month and two-week progression.
      • Mexico experiences a three-week advance
      • One-week advance for India.
      • No change for General Category and China.

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-1815-Jul-18-2 months, 2 weeks, 2 days
China22-May-1715-May-17-1 week
Central America1-Oct-1815-Jul-18-2 months, 2 weeks, 2 days
India01Jan1501Jan15No Change
Mexico1-Oct-1815-Jul-18-2 months, 2 weeks, 2 days
Philippines1-Oct-1815-Jul-18-2 months, 2 weeks, 2 days
Vietnam1-Oct-1815-Jul-18-2 months, 2 weeks, 2 days

Movement picks up across this category but India continues to see no change and China slows down after surging in December:

  • Over two-month advances for the General Category, Central America, Vietnam and the Philippines.
  • One-week advance for China.
  • No movement for 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-Jul-1522-Jun-15-1 week, 2 days
Central AmericaNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
India18-May-0915-May-09-3 days
MexicoNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
PhilippinesNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
VietnamNo WaitNo WaitNo Change

No change for most of the category, except for India and China

  • No visa wait time for the General Category, Central America, Mexico, Vietnam and the Philippines.
  • One-week and two-day advance for China
  • Three-day advance 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
China1-Dec-151-Nov-15-1 month
Central AmericaNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
India1-Jan-091-Jan-09No Change
MexicoNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
Philippines15-Mar-181-Mar-18-2 weeks, 2 days
VietnamNo WaitNo WaitNo Change

This month continues to see no visa wait times for the General Category, Mexico, Central America, and Vietnam. Other countries see sight forward movement:

  • Visas remain current for General Category, Mexico, Central America, and Vietnam.
  • No change in wait times for India.
  • China sees one-month advance
  • The Philippines experiences a two-week and two day advance s.

Finally, just to be complete about all of this: In the EB-4 “special immigrants” category, visa numbers are newly available this month, with no wait times for the General Category, China, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. There is no advance for Central America, and only a slight advance for Mexico.

In the EB-5 category, no real changes are seen, except for China, India and Vietnam that experience moderate advances:

CategoryCountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
EB-4: Special ImmigrantsGeneral CategoryNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
ChinaNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
Central America01Jul1601Jul16No Change
IndiaNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
Mexico8Aug1722Jul17-2 weeks, 3 days
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
China22-Nov-1415-Nov-14-1 week
Central AmericaNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
India1-May-181-Jan-18-4 months
MexicoNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
PhilippinesNo WaitNo WaitNo Change
Vietnam8-Dec-161-Dec-16-1 week

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.


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