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Country by country green card backlogs (March 2019)

The US, through its Department of State, released its March 2019 edition of the Visa Bulletin. For those waiting for a current status on their priority dates, that is likely a big deal, especially for those hoping that their application will move forward.

Do not worry, here we break down “priority date” and “visa bulletins” for persons who don’t have in-depth backgrounds in the area.

What is the Visa Bulletin?

Explaining the Visa Bulletin is a good place to start. The Visa Bulletin is the monthly USCIS publication that reveals wait times for certain green card applicants.

The latest version of the Visa Bulletin (March 2019) contains regarding the employment-based (“EB”) and family-(“F”) green card categories.

The following changes have affected family-based categories:

  • The family-based categories have seen significant changes, particularly with the F-2B and F-4 groups. Since the beginning of the current fiscal year (October 2018), these categories have each advanced 3 months, representing the most significant leap in this time. The last time that this happened only had an impact on unmarried Filipino children that are aged 21 and over and were US citizens (3.5-month leap).
  • Breaking with a persistent logjam, a gain in traction for the F-2B and F-3 categories regarding Mexican families is a welcome change. As of the start of the 2019 fiscal year, there was no progress made by married US citizen Mexican children. The AILA notes that due to the reduction in demand for cases processed at Cuidad Juarez, F-3 movement for these Mexican children was possible; Oppenheim also notes that, pending final action by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), there exists the potential for higher levels of demand.
  • There continues to be healthy progress made by Filipino siblings of US citizens (F-4); after close to a 1-year leap in February, it recorded a 4 month forward move in March. On top of the 3-month progress the F-3 category made, the F-4 movement translates to a low demand; however, the AILA noted that a large number of these applicants had stalled on their own progress.
  • AILA also notes that applicant, especially those within the family-based categories, do not respond well to Form DS-3032, also known as the “Choice of Address and Agent” form. As such, cut-off dates may have to be significantly advanced by the State Department; however, this action may result in longer waiting for lines, or even worse, retrogression.

The following changes have been effected in employment-based categories:

  • Indian and Chinese workers within the EB-3 category continue to make more progress than those within the EB-2 category; it is, however, not clear whether this trend will continue.
  • The EB-3 Filipino category’s demand is also “below target demand”, a situation that triggered a 4-month advance in a bid to attract additional applicants. Oppenheim expressed his concern that this move would lead to a pattern in which a sharp advancement causes a surge in applications that eventually leads to retrogression, as was witnessed in the fiscal years of 2014 and 2015.
  • Mexico, in the EB-4 category, continues to make steady progress; in Central America, meanwhile, progress stalls while all other countries retained current dates.
  • China’s EB-5, after a gap in the movement since January, saw the advance of a week as a result of expired funding by its government for the R5 and I5 categories; these were reauthorized after the Visa Bulletin’s March edition was already published.

The Difference between Dates for filing and Final Action Dates

The above point focus on the Visa Bulletin’s “Final Action Dates” as these are most appropriate when trying to forecast when an applicant is most likely to actually receive their green card.

However, every month, the USCIS announces when applicants, based on the “Dates for Filing’ or “Final Action Dates”, are required to file their applications for “adjustment of status”; this applies to immigrants already residing within the US.

Family-based visa applicants filing such applications in March are required to use the “Dates for Filing” option whilst employment-based visa applicants are required to use the “Final Action Dates” (the State Department’s website makes these available).

Green Card Backlogs: Employment-Based

EB-1 CATEGORY

EB-1: CATEGORY – 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-Jan-18 1-Oct-17 –3 months
China 22-Feb-17 15-Dec-16 –2 months, 1 week
Central America 1-Jan-18 1-Oct-17 –3 months
India 22-Feb-17 15-Dec-16 –2 months, 1 week
Mexico 1-Jan-18 1-Oct-17 –3 months
Philippines 1-Jan-18 1-Oct-17 –3 months
Vietnam 1-Jan-18 1-Oct-17 –3 months

Though India and China showed slightly lower levels of progress within this category, movement was strong in general:

      • Within the general category, Vietnam, the Philippines, Mexico and Central America showed a three-month advance
      • India and China showed more than a 2-month advance

EB-2 CATEGORY

EB-2: CATEGORY – DOCTORATE DEGREE RECIPIENTS AND FURTHER ADVANCEMENTS
Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category No wait No wait No change
China 1-Jan-16 1-Oct-165 –3 months
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 9-Apr-09 6-Apr-09 –3 days
Mexico No wait No wait No change
Philippines No wait No wait No change
Vietnam No wait No wait No change

Other than candidates from China and India, this category generally has positive feedback and experienced no queues.

      • Within the general category, Vietnam, the Philippines, Central America and Mexico have no waiting period which is greatly appreciated
      • China showed a three-month advance
      • India showed a three-day advance

EB-3 CATEGORY

EB-3: CATEGORY – 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 8-Jul-15 1-Jul-15 –1 week
Central America No wait No wait No change
India 22-May-09 22-Apr-09 –1 month
Mexico No wait No wait No change
Philippines 1-Dec-17 1-Aug-17 –4 months
Vietnam No wait No wait No change

In this category, half of the countries encounter no lines; as at the start of the new fiscal year, those in the general category are also included as well. The Philippines have heavy movements in terms of queues while for China and India queues develop slower in comparison in February:

      • Within the general category, Vietnam, Mexico and Central America retained current dates
      • China showed a one-week advance
      • India showed a one-month advance
      • The Philippines showed a four-month advance

EB-4 CATEGORY

EB-4: CATEGORY – SPECIAL IMMIGRANTS
Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category No wait No wait No change
China 1-Mar-16 1-Mar-16 No change
Central America No wait No wait No change
India No wait No wait No change
Mexico 1-Jan-18 1-Sep-17 –4 months
Philippines No wait No wait No change
Vietnam No wait No wait No change

EB-5 CATEGORY

EB-5: CATEGORY – INVESTORS
Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category No wait No wait No change
China 8-Sep-14 1-Sep-14 -1 week
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-Jul-16 15-Jun-16 -1 month

In summary: For EB-4 “special immigrants”, the no-queues trend seen in the previous months will continue for the general category; this relates to Vietnam, China, India and the Philippines.

For Central America, the line will stall again, which is a turnaround in comparison to the previous month while Mexico will progress at a steady pace. China has shown progress however, will continue to experience persistent backlogs in the EB-5 investor category as well as Vietnam.

Green Card Backlogs: Family-Based Category

F-1 CATEGORY

F-1: CATEGORY – UNMARRIED CHILDREN (AGE 21 AND OLDER) OF U.S. CITIZENS
Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 22-Oct-11 22-Sep-11 –1 month
China 22-Oct-11 22-Sep-11 –1 month
India 22-Oct-11 22-Sep-11 –1 month
Mexico 1-Aug-97 1-Aug-97 No change
Philippines 1-Apr-07 15-Mar-07 –2 weeks, 3 days

Movement patterns within the category resemble those made in February. For the eighth month in a row, Mexico made no progress:

  • India and China, within the general category, recorded a one-month advance
  • Mexico recorded no forward movement
  • The Philippines recorded a 2-week, 3-day advance

F-2A CATEGORY

F-2A: CATEGORY – 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 8-Jan-17 1-Dec-16 –1 month, 1 week
China 8-Jan-17 1-Dec-16 –1 month, 1 week
India 8-Jan-17 1-Dec-16 –1 month, 1 week
Mexico 15-Dec-16 15-Nov-16 –1 month
Philippines 8-Jan-17 1-Dec-16 –1 month, 1 week

In a reversal from February, Mexico saw a decline in the movement progress made when compared to the rest. For the month, the category:

  • Within the general category, the Philippines, India and China saw a one-and-a-half-month advance
  • Mexico saw a one-month advance

F-2B CATEGORY

F-2B: CATEGORY – 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-Aug-12 1-May-12 –3 months
China 1-Aug-12 1-May-12 –3 months
India 1-Aug-12 1-May-12 –3 months
Mexico 22-Sep-97 22-Jun-97 –3 months
Philippines 22-Jul-07 1-Jul-07 –3 weeks

In March, most countries were able to double their forward movement. However, Mexico showed the strongest movement; after only moving 2 weeks in February, the country leapt forward by a factor of three months in March:

  • Within the general category, Mexico, India and China showed a three-month advance
  • The Philippines showed a three-week advance

F-3 CATEGORY

F-3: CATEGORY – MARRIED CHILDREN OF U.S. CITIZENS
Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 8-Sep-06 22-Aug-06 – 2 weeks, 3 days
China 8-Sep-06 22-Aug-06 – 2 weeks, 3 days
India 8-Sep-06 22-Aug-06 – 2 weeks, 3 days
Mexico 15-Jan-96 22-Dec-95 – 3 weeks, 3 days
Philippines 1-Jan-96 22-Aug-95 – 4 months, 1 week, 3 days

Though all countries within this category showed advance, the Philippines showed the strongest movement. Also, after a 5-month standstill, Mexico finally made progress:

  • Within the general category, India and China showed a two-and-a-half-week advance
  • Mexico showed a three-and-a-half-week advance
  • The Philippines showed a more than 4-month advance

F-4 CATEGORY

F-4: CATEGORY – SIBLINGS OF U.S. CITIZENS
Country New Cut-off Date Old Cut-off Date Change in Wait Time
General Category 22-Sep-05 22-Jun-05 –3 months
China 22-Sep-05 22-Jun-05 –3 months
India 8-Jul-04 22-Jun-04 –2 weeks, 2 days
Mexico 8-Feb-98 8-Feb-98 No Change
Philippines 1-Jan-96 1-Oct-95 –3 months

This category saw most countries make healthy advances, especially when compared to February; meanwhile, and for the fourth consecutive month, Mexico made no progress:

  • Within the general category, the Philippines and China showed a three-month advance
  • India showed an over 2-week advance
  • Mexico showed no movement

Why This Is Important

The Visa Bulletin is important as those in line for green cards can use it to a) track actual changes; and b) track future developments. It is highly advantageous for candidates to organise all the necessary documents for their green card application well in advance so that when the Visa Bulletin indicates there is a green card available, applicants are able to file it in swiftly. Applicants stand to face a period of retrogression during subsequent attempts (which is generally counteractive) in the event they do not send in their application within a month once the green card is available

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