Visa Bulletin: What’s Next for October 2019?

The latest green card waiting lists as of October 2019, with predictions from a State Department official

Oct 14, 2019

The U.S. Department of State released its Visa Bulletin for October 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, 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

Now let’s continue…

The Bottom Line

The October 2019 Visa Bulletin — the last for fiscal year 2018–2019 — 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:

  • Monthly movement across all family-based categories remains steady, and roughly on par with previous months. Most categories will see movement of between one and two months.
  • Demand in the F-2A category is surprisingly low, with relatively few applications filed despite the immediate availability of visa numbers. F-2A remains current this month, but Oppenheim anticipates that demand will pick up in late 2019 or early 2020, at which point a final action date for F-2A could be reestablished.
  • Mexico has seen fairly strong demand in family-based categories. Flagging demand in the Philippines had led to significant movement of final action dates, but Oppenheim says corrective action could be taken if this leads to a surge in demand for family-based visa numbers.

In employment-based categories:

  • October usually sees the release of thousands of new visa numbers in the EB-1 category, as unused EB-4 and EB-5 numbers are made available for EB-1 applicants. Not this year: AILA reports that high demand means all regions continue to have final action dates, and China and India have seen retrogression based on extremely high demand.
  • Oppenheim says there’s no prospect of relief for Chinese or Indian EB-1 applicants during the first half of fiscal 2020, while the countries’ EB-2 applicants will also see little improvement for the foreseeable future. For applicants from countries other than China and India, the number of available EB-2 and EB-3 visa numbers is keeping pace with demand. Still, Oppenheim warns, increased demand in coming months could necessitate the introduction of priority dates in additional regions.
  • Oppeneheim notes most EB-4 categories are current, with the exception of Central America, which is seeing very strong demand. The EB-4 demand is having a knock-on impact on EB-1 visa number availability, since unused EB-4 numbers would ordinarily become available for EB-1 applicants, Oppenheim notes.
  • In the EB-5 category, India, China, and Vietnam will continue to have final action dates. Despite rumors to the contrary, Oppenheim sees no prospect of immediate improvement for these countries. Further information about movement in this category should become available in mid-October.

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 October, 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-Jan-131-Jan-13–2 weeks
China15-Jan-131-Jan-13–2 weeks
India15-Jan-131-Jan-13–2 weeks
Mexico8-Aug-971-Aug-96-1 year, 1 week
Philippines1-Jul-0822-Jun-08–1 week, 2 days

Whilst this category sees moderate movement, the advances seen are quite small compared to the previous month, although Mexico does advance by more than a year :

  • All countries see moderate progress, with the General Category, India and China seeing two-week advances.
  • Mexico advances by more than a year, and the Philippines by just over a week.

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 Category1-Jun-14 1-Jun-14No change
China1-Jun-141-Jun-14No change
India1-Jun-141-Jun-14No change
Mexico1-Aug-981-Jul-98–1 month
Philippines1-Sep-081-Aug-08–1 month

In October, movement stalls for most countries in this category, with only Mexico and the Philippines showing moderate progress:

  • No change for the General Category, China and India.
  • One-month advances for Mexico and the Philippines, a slight reduction from last month.

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

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category15-Sep-071-Sep-07-2 weeks
China15-Sep-07 1-Sep-07-2 weeks
India 15-Sep-07 1-Sep-07–2 weeks
Mexico22-Feb-961-Dec-95-2 months, 3 weeks
Philippines1-Apr-981-Feb-98-2 months

All countries in this category advance, with Mexico and the Philippines showing the strongest movement.

  • Two-week advance for General Category, India and China.
  • Two-month, 3-week advance for Mexico and two-month advance for the Philippines.

F-4: siblings of U.S. citizens

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category22-Nov-061-Nov-06-3 weeks
China22-Nov-061-Nov-06-3 weeks
India1-Oct-0422-Sep-04-1 week, 2 days
Mexico15-Dec-971-Jan-97-11 months, 2 weeks
Philippines8-Jul-981-Jul-98-1 week

All countries see moderate forward movement, with the exception of Mexico, which sees an 11-month advance :

  • Three-week advance for the General Category and China.
  • One-week advance for India and the Philippines.
  • Eleven-month advance for Mexico.

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 Category22-Apr-181-Oct-17-6 months, 3 weeks
China1-Nov-161-Jan-14-10 months
Central America22-Apr-181-Oct-17-6 months, 3 weeks
India01Jan15UNewly Available
Mexico22-Apr-181-Oct-17-6 months, 3 weeks
Philippines22-Apr-181-Oct-17-6 months, 3 weeks
Vietnam22-Apr-181-Oct-17-6 months, 3 weeks

Strong movement is seen across this category, with India seeing the visa category become newly available, and China seeing a 10-month advance: :

  • Six-month advances for the General Category, Central America, Vietnam and the Philippines.
  • Ten-month advance for China.
  • Visa available again for India.

EB-2: exceptional people and advanced degree holders

CountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General CategoryNo Wait1-Jan-18-1 year, 9 months
China1-Jan-151-Jan-17+2 years
Central AmericaNo Wait1-Jan-18-1 year, 9 months
India12-May-098-May-09-4 days
MexicoNo Wait1-Jan-18-1 year, 9 months
PhilippinesNo Wait1-Jan-18-1 year, 9 months
VietnamNo Wait1-Jan-18-1 year, 9 months

Big news: there is no visa wait time for the General Category, Central America, Mexico, Vietnam and the Philippines. However, China sees significant retrogression, and India sees only a four-day advance:

  • No visa wait time for the General Category, Central America, Mexico, Vietnam and the Philippines. Celebrate!
  • Two-year backward movement for China
  • Four-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 Wait1-Jul-16-3 years, 3 months
China1-Nov-151-Jan-14-10 months
Central AmericaNo Wait1-Jul-16-3 years, 3 months
India1-Jan-091-Jul-05-6 months
MexicoNo Wait1-Jul-16-3 years, 3 months
Philippines15-Oct-171-Jul-16-1 year, 3 months
VietnamNo Wait1-Jul-16-3 years, 3 months

This month sees no more visa wait times for the General Category, Mexico, Central America, and Vietnam. Other countries also see significant forward movement: :

  • No more visa times for the General Category, Mexico, Central America, and Vietnam
  • One year, 10en-month advance for China
  • Three year, 6-month advance for India
  • One year, 3-month advance for the Philippines

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.

In the EB-5 investor category, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines see some forward movement, although long wait times remain the norm.

CategoryCountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
EB-4: Special ImmigrantsGeneral CategoryNo WaitUNewly Available
ChinaNo WaitUNewly Available
Central America01-Jul-16UNewly Available
IndiaNo WaitUNewly Available
Mexico01-May-17UNewly Available
PhilippinesNo WaitUNewly Available
VietnamNo WaitUNewly Available
CategoryCountryNew Cut-off DateOld Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
EB-5: InvestorsGeneral CategoryNo waitNo waitNo Wait
China22-Oct-1422-Oct-14No Change
Central AmericaNo waitNo waitNo Change
India22-Nov-171-Sep-17-2 months, 3 weeks
MexicoNo waitNo waitNo Wait
PhilippinesNo waitNo waitNo Wait
Vietnam15-Oct-1622-Oct-14-11 months, 3 weeks, 1 day

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, buckle your seatbelts for this video of an adorable pooch in a horrifying Halloween costume.

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