The Latest Visa Bulletin, Explained


Understanding the green card waiting lists as of November 2018

Oct 14, 2018


The U.S. Department of State recently released its Visa Bulletin for November 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 November 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 the second month of fiscal year 2019, the family-based categories showed meager gains all around. The lines still haven’t moved, however, for Mexican children of U.S. citizens: four months in a row for unmarried kids under 21 and three consecutive months for married children.
  • Although most employment-based green card and visa applicants won’t have to wait in line for a visa number this month, China and India lag behind other countries in several of the worker categories after making significant progress in October.
  • Backlogs persist for EB-1 workers (extraordinary people, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers), the only employment-based category with no forward movement for any country.

(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 22-Jun-11 1-Jun-11 –21 days
China 22-Jun-11 1-Jun-11 –21 days
India 22-Jun-11 1-Jun-11 –21 days
Mexico 1-Aug-97 1-Aug-97 No change
Philippines 1-Feb-07 22-Dec-06 – 1 month, 10 days

Most countries in this category move forward somewhat, but still no progress for Mexico:

  • Three-week advance for the general category, China, and India
  • No forward movement for Mexico
  • One-month, 10-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 15-Sep-16 22-Aug-16 –24 days
China 15-Sep-16 22-Aug-16 –24 days
India 15-Sep-16 22-Aug-16 –24 days
Mexico 1-Sep-16 1-Aug-16 –1 month
Philippines 15-Sep-16 22-Aug-16 –24 days

All countries move forward in this category, with Mexico making the biggest progress:

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

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 1-Jan-12 22-Nov-11 – 1 month, 10 days
China 1-Jan-12 22-Nov-11 – 1 month, 10 days
India 1-Jan-12 22-Nov-11 – 1 month, 10 days
Mexico 1-Jun-97 15-May-97 –17 days
Philippines 1-Jun-07 15-May-07 –17 days

Everyone in this category moves ahead, with the general category, China, and India showing the biggest improvements since the previous month:

  • One-month, 10-day advance for the general category, China, and India
  • Seventeen-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 8-Jul-06 15-Jun-06 –23 days
China 8-Jul-06 15-Jun-06 –23 days
India 8-Jul-06 15-Jun-06 –23 days
Mexico 22-Dec-95 22-Dec-95 No change
Philippines 22-Jun-95 8-Jun-95 –14 days

Most countries in this category show modest forward movement, but Mexico remains at a standstill:

  • More than three-week advance for the general category, China, and India
  • No movement for Mexico
  • Two-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 22-Mar-05 15-Feb-05 –1 month, 7 days
China 22-Mar-05 15-Feb-05 –1 month, 7 days
India 1-Jun-04 1-May-04 –1 month
Mexico 8-Feb-98 22-Jan-98 –17 days
Philippines 15-Jun-95 8-Jun-95 –7 days

Mexico continues to make small gains after months of zero movement before the fiscal new year began on October 1. The rest also continue to advance, with strongest movement for the general category and China:

  • Five-week advance for the general category and China
  • One-month advance for India
  • Seventeen-day advance for Mexico
  • One-week advance for 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-Apr-17 No change
China 1-Jun-16 1-Jun-16 No change
Central America 1-Apr-17 1-Apr-17 No change
India 1-Jun-16 1-Jun-16 No change
Mexico 1-Apr-17 1-Apr-17 No change
Philippines 1-Apr-17 1-Apr-17 No change
Vietnam 1-Apr-17 1-Apr-17 No change

No movement for anyone in this category.


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 No wait No change
China 15-May-15 1-Apr-15 –1 month, 14 days
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 26-Mar-09 26-Mar-09 No change
Mexico No wait No wait No change
Philippines No wait No wait No change
Vietnam No wait No wait No change

Mostly good news in this category, with no lines for nearly all countries. Slowdowns for China and India, however, after making big leaps in the previous month :

  • Dates still current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam — no wait, celebrate!
  • One-month, two-week advance for China
  • No movement for 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 No wait No change
China 1-Jun-15 1-Jun-15 No change
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 1-Jan-09 1-Jan-09 No change
Mexico No wait No wait No change
Philippines 8-Jun-17 1-Jun-17 –7 days
Vietnam No wait No wait No change

No lines for half of the countries in this category, plus the general category. After a giant leap in the previous month, India stalls, along with China, while the Philippines makes sluggish gains:

  • Dates still current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and Vietnam
  • No movement for China and India
  • One-week advance for the Philippines

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, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. No movement for Central America, while Mexico moves ahead one month. Only a couple of lines in the EB-5 investor category, including for China, which sees no forward progress, and Vietnam, which moves ahead by one month.

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 No wait No change
  Mexico 22-Nov-16 22-Oct-16 –1 month
  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 15-Aug-14 No change
  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-Feb-16 1-Jan-16 –1 month

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, enjoy this cruel fun Halloween idea for parents.


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