Understanding the Visa Bulletin for February 2019


The latest green card waiting lists as of February 2019

Feb 5, 2019


The U.S. Department of State released its Visa Bulletin for February 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 already understand what those terms mean, skip over 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 February 2019 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:

  • Mexico continues to be the only country in the family-based categories whose lines continue to stall, with no forward movement for both children and siblings of U.S. citizens, accounting for 3 out of 5 categories. All others continue to make steady progress.
  • According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) — as told by Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State — the “Date for Filing” for Filipino siblings of U.S. citizens (F-4) has leaped by nearly 1 year to “spur additional demand and encourage applicants to take action on their cases.” (See “Wonky technical note” below for additional information about “Dates for Filing” vs. “Final Action Dates.”)
  • Chinese workers are the constant in nearly all employment-based categories, with more delays compared with workers in any other country with a backlog.
  • Indian workers in the EB-3 category are now ahead of those in the EB-2 category by about 2 weeks. Oppenheim told AILA that this is due to “the current overall low level of EB-3 Worldwide demand, which in turn is likely to make additional EB-3 numbers available for India.” Demand for Filipino workers in the EB-3 category is also “below target demand.”
  • According to Oppenheim, the National Visa Center (NVC), which processes applications filed abroad, is processing about 5% more employment-based applications than in fiscal year 2018, when an upward trend began showing an increased preference for consular filing (applying from abroad).

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.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announces every month, however, whether applicants should file their “adjustment of status” applications (those for immigrants already residing in the United States) based on the “final action dates” or the “dates for filing.”

For such applications filed in February, family-based applicants must use the “dates for filing,” while employment-based applicants must use the “final action dates” (both sets of dates are available on the State Department’s website).

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-Sep-11 22-Aug-11 –1 month
China 22-Sep-11 22-Aug-11 –1 month
India 22-Sep-11 22-Aug-11 –1 month
Mexico 1-Aug-97 1-Aug-97 No change
Philippines 15-Mar-07 1-Mar-07 –2 weeks

Most countries in this category continue to move forward, but Mexico makes no progress for the seventh consecutive month:

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

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 1-Dec-16 8-Nov-16 –3 weeks, 2 days
China 1-Dec-16 8-Nov-16 –3 weeks, 2 days
India 1-Dec-16 8-Nov-16 –3 weeks, 2 days
Mexico 15-Nov-16 15-Oct-16 –1 month
Philippines 1-Dec-16 8-Nov-16 –3 weeks, 2 days

All countries move forward in this category, with Mexico making more progress than the rest, a reversal of the previous month:

  • More than 3-week 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 New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 1-May-12 15-Mar-12 –1 month, 2 weeks, 2 days
China 1-May-12 15-Mar-12 –1 month, 2 weeks, 2 days
India 1-May-12 15-Mar-12 –1 month, 2 weeks, 2 days
Mexico 22-Jun-97 8-Jun-97 –2 weeks
Philippines 1-Jul-07 22-Jun-07 –1 week, 2 days

The lines get shorter for all countries in this category, including Mexico, which made no progress in January:

  • Over 1.5-month advance for the general category, China, and India
  • Two-week advance for Mexico
  • One-week advance for the Philippines

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 22-Aug-06 15-Aug-06 –1 week
China 22-Aug-06 15-Aug-06 –1 week
India 22-Aug-06 15-Aug-06 –1 week
Mexico 22-Dec-95 22-Dec-95 No change
Philippines 22-Aug-95 22-Jul-95 –1 month

Most countries in this category continue to advance, with strongest movement for the Philippines. Mexico remains at a standstill for the fifth month in a row:

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

F-4: siblings of U.S. citizens

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 22-Jun-05 22-May-05 –1 month
China 22-Jun-05 22-May-05 –1 month
India 22-Jun-04 15-Jun-04 –1 week
Mexico 8-Feb-98 8-Feb-98 No change
Philippines 1-Oct-95 1-Sep-95 –1 month

Most countries in this category continue to advance, with weaker movement for India compared with the rest. Mexico makes no progress for the third month in a row:

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

Employment-Based Green Card Backlogs

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 1-Dec-17 1-Oct-17 –2 months
China 8-Feb-17 15-Dec-16 –1 month, 3 weeks, 3 days
Central America 1-Dec-17 1-Oct-17 –2 months
India 8-Feb-17 15-Dec-16 –1 month, 3 weeks, 3 days
Mexico 1-Dec-17 1-Oct-17 –2 months
Philippines 1-Dec-17 1-Oct-17 –2 months
Vietnam 1-Dec-17 1-Oct-17 –2 months

Slightly weaker forward movement than in January for everyone in this category, with China and India making less progress, a reversal of the previous month:

  • Two-month advance for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam
  • Nearly 2-month advance for China and India

EB-2: exceptional people and advanced degree holders

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category No wait No wait No change
China 1-Oct-15 1-Aug-15 –2 months
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 6-Apr-09 1-Apr-09 –5 days
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 except China and India:

  • Dates remain current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam — no wait, celebrate!
  • Two-month advance for China
  • Five-day advance for India

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

Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category No wait No wait No change
China 1-Jul-15 8-Jun-15 –3 weeks, 2 days
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 22-Apr-09 1-Mar-09 –1 month, 3 weeks
Mexico No wait No wait No change
Philippines 1-Aug-17 22-Jun-17 –1 month, 1 week, 3 days
Vietnam No wait No wait No change

No lines for half of the countries in this category, plus the general category, a trend that started at the beginning of the new fiscal year. Lines for India and China start to move again, while movement picks up for the Philippines:

  • Dates still current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and Vietnam
  • More than 3-week advance for China
  • Nearly 2-month advance for India
  • More than 1-month advance for the Philippines

Finally, just to be complete about all of this: The no-line pattern of previous months continues for EB-4 “special immigrants” from the general category, China, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The line moves again for Central America, while Mexico advances more than 4.5 months. In the EB-5 investor category, only China and Vietnam continue to have uncleared backlogs, with no progress for the former.

Category Country New Cut-off Date Old 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 1-Mar-16 22-Feb-16 –1 week, 1 day
  India No wait No wait No change
  Mexico 1-Sep-17 15-Apr-17 –4 months, 2 weeks, 3 days
  Philippines No wait No wait No change
  Vietnam No wait No wait No change
Category Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
EB-5: Investors General Category No wait No wait No change
  China 1-Sep-14 1-Sep-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 15-Jun-16 1-Jun-16 –2 weeks

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, we hope the Polar Vortex isn’t causing you embarrassing grief like it is for this lady (turn up your speakers for the best part).


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