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 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

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category1-Jun-118-Apr-11–1 month, 24 days
China1-Jun-118-Apr-11–1 month, 24 days
India1-Jun-118-Apr-11–1 month, 24 days
Mexico1-Aug-971-Aug-97No change
Philippines22-Dec-0615-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

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category22-Aug-1622-Jul-16–1 month
China22-Aug-1622-Jul-16–1 month
India22-Aug-1622-Jul-16–1 month
Mexico1-Aug-161-Jul-16–1 month
Philippines22-Aug-1622-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

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category22-Nov-111-Nov-11–21 days
China22-Nov-111-Nov-11–21 days
India22-Nov-111-Nov-11–21 days
Mexico15-May-9722-Apr-97–23 days
Philippines15-May-0722-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

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category15-Jun-061-May-06–1 month, 14 days
China15-Jun-061-May-06–1 month, 14 days
India15-Jun-061-May-06–1 month, 14 days
Mexico22-Dec-9522-Dec-95No change
Philippines8-Jun-951-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

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category15-Feb-058-Jan-05–1 month, 7 days
China15-Feb-058-Jan-05–1 month, 7 days
India1-May-048-Apr-04–23 days
Mexico22-Jan-9815-Jan-98–7 days
Philippines8-Jun-951-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

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General Category1-Apr-171-Jun-16–10 months
China1-Jun-161-Jan-12–4 years, 5 months
Central America1-Apr-171-Jun-16–10 months
India1-Jun-161-Jan-12–4 years, 5 months
Mexico1-Apr-171-Jun-16–10 months
Philippines1-Apr-171-Jun-16–10 months
Vietnam1-Apr-171-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

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General CategoryNo wait1-Jan-13No more wait
China1-Apr-151-Jan-13–2 years, 3 months
Central AmericaNo wait1-Jan-13No more wait
India26-Mar-091-Jan-07–2 years, 2 months, 25 days
MexicoNo wait1-Jan-13No more wait
PhilippinesNo wait1-Jan-13No more wait
VietnamNo wait1-Jan-13No 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

CountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
General CategoryNo wait1-Nov-16No more wait
China1-Jun-151-Nov-14–7 months
Central AmericaNo wait1-Nov-16No more wait
India1-Jan-091-Jan-03–6 years
MexicoNo wait1-Nov-16No more wait
Philippines1-Jun-171-Nov-16–7 months
VietnamNo wait1-Nov-16No 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.

CategoryCountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
EB-4: Special ImmigrantsGeneral CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
ChinaNo waitNo waitNo change
Central America15-Feb-1615-Feb-16No change
IndiaNo wait15-Feb-16No more wait
Mexico22-Oct-1615-Feb-16–8 months, 7 days
PhilippinesNo waitNo waitNo change
VietnamNo waitNo waitNo change
CategoryCountryCurrent Cut-off DatePrevious Cut-off DateChange in Wait Time
EB-5: InvestorsGeneral CategoryNo waitNo waitNo change
China15-Aug-148-Aug-14–7 days
Central AmericaNo waitNo waitNo change
IndiaNo waitNo waitNo change
MexicoNo waitNo waitNo change
PhilippinesNo waitNo waitNo change
Vietnam1-Jan-168-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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