The U.S. Department of State recently released its Visa Bulletin for September 2017. 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. This post focuses on the “final action dates” charts in the visa bulletin, as those dates are most relevant to when applicants will ultimately receive their green card.
First, check out the Boundless guide on How to Read the Visa Bulletin. Then read on for the latest news…
The bottom line
This month, the action is in the family-based (“F”) green card categories, specifically a retrogression (in other words, backwards movement) in the F-1 and the F-4 categories. The good news is that, in October, the dates for both of these categories are expected to return to the dates released in the August 2017 Visa Bulletin.
The September 2017 Visa Bulletin doesn’t show very much movement in wait times for the employment-based (“EB”) green card categories.
Family-based green card backlogs
F-1: unmarried adults (age 21 and older) who are children of U.S. citizens
- The cut-off dates for the general category, China, and India retrogressed by eight months (now May 1, 2010). These dates are expected to return to the dates published in the 2017 Visa Bulletin in October.
- No change in the cut-off dates for Mexico (still February 1, 1996)
- Two-month advance for the Philippines (now January 1, 2007)
F-2A: spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of U.S. green card holders
These lines would be moving faster, but the September visa bulletin is the last one in the government’s fiscal year, when the State Department gets cautious about hitting the annual green card caps. Look for better news in October!
- One-week advance in cut-off date for the general category, China, India, and the Philippines (now October 1, 2015)
- Three-week advance for Mexico (now September 22, 2015)
F-2B: unmarried children (age 21 and older) of U.S. green card holders
- No change in the cut-off dates for the general category, China, and India (still November 1, 2010)
- No change in the cut-off dates for Mexico (still July 1, 1996)
- Three-week advance for the Philippines (now January 1, 2007)
F-3: married children of U.S. citizens
- No change in the cut-off dates for the general category, China, and India (still July 8, 2005)
- No change in the cut-off dates for Mexico (still April 8, 1995)
- Three-week advance for the Philippines (now February 15, 1995) 1995)
F-4: siblings of U.S. citizens
A significant increase in green card demand has caused a retrogression for the general category, China, and India. The good news is that, in October, we’re likely to see the dates return to what they were in August 2017 for people waiting in these two lines (happy fiscal new year!).
- A 2.5-year retrogression in the cut-off dates for the general category and China (now January 1, 2002)
- A 1.5-year retrogression in the cut-off dates for for India (now January 1, 2002)
- No change in the cut-off dates for Mexico (still September 15, 1997)
- Two-month advance for the Philippines (now June 1, 1994)
Employment-based green card backlogs
EB-1: extraordinary people, outstanding researchers and professors
- The visa bulletin remains current for the general category, Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), Mexico, and the Philippines. That means no wait time. Come and get your green cards!
- No change in cut-off dates for China and India (still January 1, 2012). The Department of State expects that this category will not have a wait time starting October, and continuing until summer 2018!
EB-2: exceptional people and advanced degree holders
- Nine-month advance in the cut-off dates for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and the Philippines (now January 1, 2016). The general category is expected to not have a wait time starting October, and remain that way for the foreseeable future.
- Three-week advance for China (now May 15, 2013).
- One-month advance for India (now August 22, 2008). It is expected that the date in this category will advance to a date in December 2008 early in 2018. The Department of State is also hopeful that the date for this category could advance to a date in 2009 at some point during the second half of fiscal year 2018.
EB-3: bachelor’s degree holders, skilled workers, and unskilled workers
The Department of State expects that demand in the EB-3 general category will increase next fiscal year. Applicants are advised to respond immediately to any USCIS requests for evidence (RFEs) to facilitate a speedy adjudication, and obtain an immigrant visa number during the current fiscal year.
- The visa bulletin remains current for the general category, Central America, and Mexico (no wait — celebrate!)
- No change for China (still January 1, 2012). This category is expected to advance in October, putting it ahead of the EB-2 China category, thus increasing the demand from applicants looking to downgrade their green card application to this category from the EB-2 category.
- Three-month advance for India (now October 15, 2006). If there’s a lot of demand in the general category from October onward, there will be fewer unused EB-3 green cards for Indians, and this line could stall again.
- Five-month advance for the Philippines (now November 1, 2015). Act now!
- No change in the previously retrogressed dates for “other workers” from China (still January 1, 2004)
Finally, just to be complete about all of this: The cut-off dates for EB-4 “special immigrants” advanced by five weeks for Central America, India, and Mexico (now October 22, 2015), and is current for everyone else. EB-4 India is expected to not have a wait time starting October. And there’s no wait time for EB-5 investors except those from China, whose cut-off date remains the same (still June 15, 2014).
Why this matters
If you are an applicant in line for a green card, it is important to keep track of actual changes in the visa bulletin, and also predicted future changes. It is always a good idea to prepare all the documents needed for your green card application ahead of time, and 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 retrogression in the next visa bulletin, which would close your window of opportunity for filing a green card application.
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