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


Understanding the green card waiting lists as of September 2018

Aug 14, 2018


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

  • In previous months, new backlogs and longer wait times were a trend only in employment-based categories. This month, some countries in the family-based categories show backward movement, as well.
  • Great news for Filipino relatives: The Philippines move furthest ahead in most of the family-based categories.
  • Chinese and Indian workers face even more significant delays than in previous months, with both groups’ cut-off dates moving back more than two years in the EB-2 category and six years for Indian EB-3 visa holders.
  • Individuals of “extraordinary ability” from China and India have been losing their fast track to a green card for six consecutive months. These and other wait times are expected to reset on October 1, 2018, however, when the government’s fiscal new year begins.

(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

Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
F-1: Unmarried Children Age 21+ of U.S. Citizens General Category 8-Apr-11 8-May-11 +1 month
China 8-Apr-11 8-May-11 +1 month
India 8-Apr-11 8-May-11 +1 month
Mexico 1-Aug-97 1-Aug-97 No change
Philippines 15-Nov-06 1-Aug-06 –3 months, 14 days
Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
F-2A: Spouses & Children Under 21 of U.S. Green Card Holders General Category 22-Jul-16 22-Jul-16 No change
China 22-Jul-16 22-Jul-16 No change
India 22-Jul-16 22-Jul-16 No change
Mexico 1-Jul-16 1-Jul-16 No change
Philippines 22-Jul-16 22-Jul-16 No change
Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
F-2B: Unmarried Children Age 21+ of U.S. Green Card Holders General Category 1-Nov-11 22-Oct-11 –10 days
China 1-Nov-11 22-Oct-11 –10 days
India 1-Nov-11 22-Oct-11 –10 days
Mexico 22-Apr-97 1-Apr-97 –21 days
Philippines 22-Apr-07 15-Feb-07 –2 months, 7 days
Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
F-3: Married Children of U.S. Citizens General Category 1-May-06 15-Jun-06 +1 month, 14 days
China 1-May-06 15-Jun-06 +1 month, 14 days
India 1-May-06 15-Jun-06 +1 month, 14 days
Mexico 22-Dec-95 1-Dec-95 –21 days
Philippines 1-Jun-95 1-May-95 –1 month
Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
F-4: Siblings of U.S. Citizens General Category 8-Jan-05 22-Dec-04 –17 days
China 8-Jan-05 22-Dec-04 –17 days
India 8-Apr-04 22-Mar-04 –17 days
Mexico 15-Jan-98 15-Jan-98 No change
Philippines 1-Jun-95 22-Apr-95 –1 month, 10 days

F-1: unmarried children (age 21 and older) of U.S. citizens

Only the Philippines moves forward in this category:

  • One-month backward movement for the general category, China, and India (now April 8, 2011)
  • No forward movement for Mexico (still August 1, 1997)
  • Three-and-a-half-month advance for the Philippines (now November 15, 2006)

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

No movement for any country in this category:

  • No forward movement for the general category, China, India, and the Philippines (still July 22, 2016)
  • No forward movement for Mexico (still July 1, 2016)

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

Modest advances for everyone in this category except the Philippines, which shows nearly five times greater forward movement than in August:

  • Ten-day advance for the general category, China, and India (now November 1, 2011)
  • Three-week advance for Mexico (now April 22, 1997)
  • Two-month and one-week advance for the Philippines (now April 22, 2007)

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

Mexico and the Philippines show better forward progress this month than in August, while the wait time has increased for everyone else in this category:

  • Six-week backward movement for the general category, China, and India (now May 1, 2006)
  • Three-week advance for Mexico (now December 22, 1995)
  • One-month advance for the Philippines (now June 1, 1995)

F-4: siblings of U.S. citizens

Steady progress for all countries except Mexico, whose cut-off date remains unchanged:

  • Nearly two-and-a-half-week advance for the general category and China (now January 8, 2005) and for India (now April 8, 2004)
  • No forward movement for Mexico (still January 15, 1998)
  • Nearly five-and-a-half-week advance for the Philippines (now June 1, 1995)

Employment-Based Green Card Backlogs

Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
EB-1: Extraordinary People, Outstanding Researchers and Professors, and Multinational Executives and Managers General Category 1-Jun-16 1-May-16 –1 month
China 1-Jan-12 1-Jan-12 No change
Central America 1-Jun-16 1-May-16 –1 month
India 1-Jan-12 1-Jan-12 No change
Mexico 1-Jun-16 1-May-16 –1 month
Philippines 1-Jun-16 1-May-16 –1 month
Vietnam 1-Jun-16 1-May-16 –1 month
Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
EB-2: Exceptional People and Advanced Degree Holders General Category 1-Jan-13 No wait New backlog
China 1-Jan-13 1-Mar-15 +2 years, 2 months
Central America 1-Jan-13 No wait New backlog
India 1-Jan-07 15-Mar-09 +2 years, 2 months, 14 days
Mexico 1-Jan-13 No wait New backlog
Philippines 1-Jan-13 No wait New backlog
Vietnam 1-Jan-13 No wait New backlog
Category Country Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
EB-3: Bachelor’s Degree Holders, Skilled Workers, and Unskilled Workers General Category 1-Nov-16 No wait New backlog
China 1-Nov-14 1-Jul-14 –4 months
Central America 1-Nov-16 No wait New backlog
India 1-Jan-03 1-Jan-09 +6 years
Mexico 1-Nov-16 No wait New backlog
Philippines 1-Nov-16 1-Jun-17 +7 months
Vietnam 1-Nov-16 No wait New backlog
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 8-Feb-16 –7 days
India 15-Feb-16 8-Feb-16 –7 days
Mexico 15-Feb-16 8-Feb-16 –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 8-Aug-14 1-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 8-Aug-14 1-Aug-14 –7 days

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

Several countries in this category move ahead somewhat. China and India still face a significant (though probably temporary) queue since previous months.

  • One-month advance for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam (now June 1, 2016)
  • No movement for China and India (still January 1, 2012)

EB-2: exceptional people and advanced degree holders

All countries in this category now have a wait time, with especially significant setbacks for China and India:

  • New backlog for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam (now January 1, 2013)
  • Two-year and two-month reverse movement for China (now January 1, 2013)
  • Two-year and 10-week reverse movement for India (now January 1, 2007)

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

All countries in this category now have a wait time, with especially significant reverse movement for India:

  • New backlog for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and Vietnam (now November 1, 2016)
  • Four-month advance for China (now November 1, 2014)
  • Six-year backward movement for India (now January 1, 2003)
  • Seven-month backward movement for the Philippines (now November 1, 2016)

Finally, just to be complete about all of this: The cut-off date for EB-4 “special immigrants” has moved very slightly for Central America, India, and Mexico (now February 15, 2016). This category is current for everyone else. And there’s no wait time for EB-5 investors except those from China and Vietnam, each with only one-week forward movement since the previous month (now August 8, 2014).


Why This Matters

If you are an applicant in line for a green card, it’s important to keep track of actual changes in the visa bulletin and also likely future changes. 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 visa bulletin! As always, we’ll highlight all the important changes for you. In the meantime, let this cat show you how to properly take a leap of faith.


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