The Latest Visa Bulletin, Explained


Understanding the green card waiting lists as of December 2018

Nov 16, 2018


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

  • No backward movement for any country in any category this month.
  • Most countries moved ahead in the family-based categories, but gains were modest overall.
  • A pattern of no progress continues for Mexican families, particularly relatives of U.S. citizens.
  • Employment-based green card and visa applicants generally fared better than relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders (permanent residents). In almost every category, workers from just a few countries must wait in line for a visa number this month.
  • Chinese workers are the constant in nearly all employment-based categories, with more delays compared with workers in any other country with a backlog.
  • The lines are finally moving for EB-1 workers, ending a persistent logjam, but whether progress will continue remains to be seen.

(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 8-Aug-11 22-Jun-11 –1 month, 17 days
China 8-Aug-11 22-Jun-11 –1 month, 17 days
India 8-Aug-11 22-Jun-11 –1 month, 17 days
Mexico 1-Aug-97 1-Aug-97 No change
Philippines 15-Feb-07 1-Feb-07 – 14 days

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

  • One-month, 2-week, and 2-day 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 Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 8-Oct-16 15-Sep-16 –23 days
China 8-Oct-16 15-Sep-16 –23 days
India 8-Oct-16 15-Sep-16 –23 days
Mexico 22-Sep-16 1-Sep-16 –21 days
Philippines 8-Oct-16 15-Sep-16 –23 days

All countries move forward in this category, with Mexico making slightly smaller progress than the rest:

  • Three-week, 2-day advance for the general category, China, India, and the Philippines
  • Three-week 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 15-Feb-12 1-Jan-12 – 1 month, 14 days
China 15-Feb-12 1-Jan-12 – 1 month, 14 days
India 15-Feb-12 1-Jan-12 – 1 month, 14 days
Mexico 8-Jun-97 1-Jun-97 –7 days
Philippines 8-Jun-07 1-Jun-07 –7 days

Everyone in this category moves ahead, with very similar progress as in November:

  • One-month, 2-week advance for the general category, China, and India
  • One-week 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 1-Aug-06 8-Jul-06 –24 days
China 1-Aug-06 8-Jul-06 –24 days
India 1-Aug-06 8-Jul-06 –24 days
Mexico 22-Dec-95 22-Dec-95 No change
Philippines 8-Jul-95 22-Jun-95 –16 days

Most countries in this category show modest forward movement, but Mexico remains at a standstill for the third month in a row:

  • More than 3-week advance for the general category, China, and India
  • No movement for Mexico
  • More than 2-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-Apr-05 22-Mar-05 –1 month
China 22-Apr-05 22-Mar-05 –1 month
India 8-Jun-04 1-Jun-04 –7 days
Mexico 8-Feb-98 8-Feb-98 No change
Philippines 15-Jul-95 15-Jun-95 –1 month

Most countries in this category continue to advance, with strongest movement for the general category, China, and the Philippines. Mexico slows down again after making a modest gain in November, which followed a long spell of 0 movement:

  • 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 Current Cut-off Date Previous Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 1-Jul-17 1-Apr-17 –3 months
China 1-Sep-16 1-Jun-16 –3 months
Central America 1-Jul-17 1-Apr-17 –3 months
India 1-Sep-16 1-Jun-16 –3 months
Mexico 1-Jul-17 1-Apr-17 –3 months
Philippines 1-Jul-17 1-Apr-17 –3 months
Vietnam 1-Jul-17 1-Apr-17 –3 months

Three-month advance for everyone in this category after 0 movement in November.


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 1-Jul-15 15-May-15 –1 month, 16 days
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 1-Apr-09 26-Mar-09 –6 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. Slowdowns continue for China and India, following big leaps in October:

  • Dates remain current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam — no wait, celebrate!
  • One-month, 2-week, and 2-day advance for China
  • Six-day advance 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 8-Jun-15 1-Jun-15 –7 days
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 1-Mar-09 1-Jan-09 –2 months
Mexico No wait No wait No change
Philippines 15-Jun-17 8-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, a repeat of the previous month. Movement picks up again for India and China after stalling in November. The Philippines continues to make sluggish gains:

  • Dates still current for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and Vietnam
  • Two-month advance for India
  • One-week advance for China and the Philippines

Finally, just to be complete about all of this: The no-line pattern continues for EB-4 “special immigrants” from the general category, China, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Central America moves ahead slightly, while Mexico advances 1 month, plus an extra 10 days, 33% more movement than in November. In the EB-5 investor category, China moves ahead very modestly after no forward progress in November, while Vietnam makes three times its gains from the previous 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 22-Feb-16 15-Feb-16 –7 days
  India No wait No wait No change
  Mexico 1-Jan-17 22-Nov-16 –1 month, 10 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 22-Aug-14 15-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-May-16 1-Feb-16 –3 months

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, here’s how to make your grandma feel special this Thanksgiving (even if she’s not your favorite cook).


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