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


Understanding the green card waiting lists as of October 2018

Sep 13, 2018


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

  • Wait times reset on October 1, 2018, as the government’s fiscal new year begins.
  • In stark contrast with the trend of recent months, which appeared to be “new backlogs and longer wait times,” this month showed forward movement in nearly all visa categories. The employment-based categories, particularly EB-2, made disproportionately bigger advances. The U.S. government also cleared its backlog for some countries in certain categories with previous wait times.
  • Wait times commonly teeter from month to month, but after being pushed back significantly in September, the cut-off dates for India in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories (more than two and six years, respectively) made a complete reversal this month to their August cut-off dates (or even later). It’s unclear exactly what caused the 360-degree change between August and October. Nonetheless, it’s cause for celebration for Indian workers — at least while the good times last.
  • Mexico was the only country that did not move ahead in certain family-based categories, namely F-1 and F-3. This continues a pattern in recent months for America’s southern neighbor.
  • As expected, the stubborn slowdown for Chinese and Indian individuals of “extraordinary ability” was temporary. Both countries finally made a turn for the better as the fiscal new year starts, showing forward progress of nearly 4.5 years each.

(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

Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 1-Jun-11 8-Apr-11 –1 month, 24 days
China 1-Jun-11 8-Apr-11 –1 month, 24 days
India 1-Jun-11 8-Apr-11 –1 month, 24 days
Mexico 1-Aug-97 1-Aug-97 No change
Philippines 22-Dec-06 15-Nov-06 –1 month, 7 days

Everyone moves forward in this category except Mexico:

  • Nearly two-month advance for the general category, China, and India
  • No forward movement for Mexico
  • One-month, seven-day advance for the Philippines

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

Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 22-Aug-16 22-Jul-16 –1 month
China 22-Aug-16 22-Jul-16 –1 month
India 22-Aug-16 22-Jul-16 –1 month
Mexico 1-Aug-16 1-Jul-16 –1 month
Philippines 22-Aug-16 22-Jul-16 –1 month

All countries move forward one month in this category after stalling in September.


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

Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 22-Nov-11 1-Nov-11 –21 days
China 22-Nov-11 1-Nov-11 –21 days
India 22-Nov-11 1-Nov-11 –21 days
Mexico 15-May-97 22-Apr-97 –23 days
Philippines 15-May-07 22-Apr-07 –23 days

Similar (though modest) advances for everyone in this category, and the Philippines slows down again after a big leap in September:

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

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

Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 15-Jun-06 1-May-06 –1 month, 14 days
China 15-Jun-06 1-May-06 –1 month, 14 days
India 15-Jun-06 1-May-06 –1 month, 14 days
Mexico 22-Dec-95 22-Dec-95 No change
Philippines 8-Jun-95 1-Jun-95 –7 days

The Philippines shows weaker progress this month compared with the other countries in this category, which moved backward in September but completely reversed this month. Mexico shows no movement whatsoever:

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

F-4: siblings of U.S. citizens

Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 15-Feb-05 8-Jan-05 –1 month, 7 days
China 15-Feb-05 8-Jan-05 –1 month, 7 days
India 1-May-04 8-Apr-04 –23 days
Mexico 22-Jan-98 15-Jan-98 –7 days
Philippines 8-Jun-95 1-Jun-95 –7 days

Forward progress for all countries, albeit modest for Mexico, the cut-off date for which remained unchanged for five consecutive months:

  • Five-week advance for the general category and China
  • Three-week advance for India
  • One-week advance for Mexico and the Philippines

Employment-Based Green Card Backlogs

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

Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 1-Apr-17 1-Jun-16 –10 months
China 1-Jun-16 1-Jan-12 –4 years, 5 months
Central America 1-Apr-17 1-Jun-16 –10 months
India 1-Jun-16 1-Jan-12 –4 years, 5 months
Mexico 1-Apr-17 1-Jun-16 –10 months
Philippines 1-Apr-17 1-Jun-16 –10 months
Vietnam 1-Apr-17 1-Jun-16 –10 months

Big leaps for China and India after a long spell of zero movement. Everyone else makes steady progress:

  • Ten-month advance for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam
  • Four-year, five-month advance for China and India

EB-2: exceptional people and advanced degree holders

Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category No wait 1-Jan-13 No more wait
China 1-Apr-15 1-Jan-13 –2 years, 3 months
Central America No wait 1-Jan-13 No more wait
India 26-Mar-09 1-Jan-07 –2 years, 2 months, 25 days
Mexico No wait 1-Jan-13 No more wait
Philippines No wait 1-Jan-13 No more wait
Vietnam No wait 1-Jan-13 No more wait

Last month, all countries in this category showed a wait time, but all move forward significantly this month, a good start to a new fiscal year:

  • Dates now current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam
  • Over two-year forward movement for China and India

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

Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category No wait 1-Nov-16 No more wait
China 1-Jun-15 1-Nov-14 –7 months
Central America No wait 1-Nov-16 No more wait
India 1-Jan-09 1-Jan-03 –6 years
Mexico No wait 1-Nov-16 No more wait
Philippines 1-Jun-17 1-Nov-16 –7 months
Vietnam No wait 1-Nov-16 No more wait

Previously showing wait times, several countries are now current, with especially significant forward movement for India:

  • Dates now current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and Vietnam
  • Seven-month advance for China and the Philippines
  • Six-year advance for India

Finally, just to be complete about all of this: The cut-off date for EB-4 “special immigrants” remains current for the general category, China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. India, now current, advances more than two-and-a-half years. Mexico moves forward more than eight months, while there’s no movement for Central America. There’s also no wait time for EB-5 investors except those from China — with only one-week forward progress — and Vietnam, which moved ahead nearly one year and five months.

Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous 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 15-Feb-16 15-Feb-16 No change
India No wait 15-Feb-16 No more wait
Mexico 22-Oct-16 15-Feb-16 –8 months, 7 days
Philippines No wait No wait No change
Vietnam No wait No wait No change
Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
EB-5: Investors General Category No wait No wait No change
China 15-Aug-14 8-Aug-14 –7 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-Jan-16 8-Aug-14 –1 year, 4 months, 24 days

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, make sure you’re more prepared than this kid for back-to-school season.


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