May 2017 Visa Bulletin Released

The Department of State has released the Visa Bulletin for May 2017. The table below shows “Final Action (Approval)” cut-off dates and movement from the previous month, for all major employment-based categories. To see filing cut-off dates or family-sponsored categories please go to the Visa Bulletin page linked above. For historical data, predictions and more information please refer to our Visa Bulletin Toolbox.

Chargeability Preference Cut-off Date (Y-M-D) Movement (Days)
China Second (EB2) 2013-02-08 24
India Second (EB2) 2008-06-22 0
ROW Third (EB3) 2017-03-15 28
China Third (EB3) 2014-10-01 47
India Third (EB3) 2005-03-25 1
Mexico Third (EB3) 2017-03-15 28
Philippines Third (EB3) 2013-01-01 108

The Department of State also made the following annoucement with regard to EB1 and EB2 future movement:

Employment First Preference: A Final Action Date will be established for both CHINA-mainland born and INDIA in the near future. Once such a date has been established, there is some chance that it might advance slowly through September. The date for these countries will once again become CURRENT for October, the first month of fiscal year 2018.

Employment Second Preference: Worldwide, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the Philippines can be expected to become oversubscribed no later than July. It is possible that there could be some forward movement of the established Final Action Date by September. The date for these countries will once again become CURRENT for October, the first month of fiscal year 2018.

Visa Number Use by Category – USCIS vs DOS – FY2015

The Department of State (DOS) published data on the consumption of immigrant visa numbers by preference category. Each visa number represents a green card, or permanent residence, granted to an applicant. The data are also separated into two groups: The ones issued by DOS to applicants outside the United States, and ones issued by USCIS to adjust status of applicants already in the U.S.

It’s no surprise that the vast majority of family-sponsored green cards were issued to people residing outside the States, while most employment-based green cards were given to people already working in the U.S.

The data also show that family-sponsored and diversity visa (lottery) used far more visa numbers than employment-based categories.

visa number by category

Category Visa Issuances at Offices Abroad USCIS Adjustments
F1 (Family First) 22,346 2,363
F2A (Family Second1*) 80,197 5,078
F2B (Family Second** ) 22,726 2,215
F3 (Family Third) 23,455 2,368
F4 (Family Fourth) 60,116 4,807
E1 (Employment First) 1,891 40,099
E2 (Employment Second) 1,856 42,623
E3 (Employment Third) 7,340 30,110
E4 (Employment Fourth) 1,753 8,516
E5 (Employment Fifth) 8,773 991
DV (Diversity Visa) 48,097 1,280

* Family Second – Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents

** Family Second – Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents

Source: Department of State

December 2015 Visa Bulletin and Future Cutoff Date Predictions

The Department of State has released the Visa Bulletin for December 2015. The table below is a quick overview of the “Final Action (Approval)” cut-off dates and movement from the previous month, for the backlogged employment-based preferences. For all other categories, including family sponsored, please visit our Visa Bulletin Toolbox for more information.

Chargeability Preference Cut-off Date (Y-M-D) Movement (Days)
China Second (EB2) 2012-02-01 0
India Second (EB2) 2007-6-1 304
ROW Third (EB3) 2015-9-1 17
China Third (EB3) 2012-4-15 105
India Third (EB3) 2004-4-22 21
Mexico Third (EB3) 2015-9-1 17
Philippines Third (EB3) 2007-8-1 47

The Department of State also published their predictions on monthly cutoff date movement for the next few months. These represent the Visa Office’s estimates on new cut-off dates for the next few visa bulletins. Of course visa demand and other factors may change, and the actual visa bulletins may differ from the following predictions, but they’ve been fairly accurate in the past.

The predictions painted a bleak picture for China EB-2: virtually no forward movement for the next few months. So China-EB2 will likely have a cutoff date around February, 2012 for three or four months. China EB-3, on the other hand, is predicted to advance rapidly for a few months. The forward movement may stop or even retrogress beginning April, 2016.

DOS also predicted that India EB-2 will advance up to eight weeks monthly for the next few months. India EB3 is also going to move forward, albeit at a slower pace of up to three weeks monthly.

  • EB1: Current
  • EB2:
    • Worldwide: Current
    • China: Forward movement of this date during FY-2015 has resulted in a dramatic increase in demand. Little, if any movement is likely during the coming months.
    • India: Up to eight months.
  • EB3:
    • Worldwide: The rapid forward movement during FY-2015 was expected to generate a significant amount of demand for numbers. If such demand fails to materialize in the near future it will be necessary to begin advancing this cut-off date.
    • China: Rapid forward movement. Such movement will result in increased demand which will require "corrective" action as early as April.
    • India: Up to three weeks.
    • Mexico: Will remain at the worldwide date.
    • Philippines: Four to six weeks.
  • EB4: Current
  • EB5: The category will remain "Current" for most countries. China-mainland born: Slow forward movement.
  • Family-Sponsored worldwide dates:
    • F1: Three to six weeks
    • F2A: Three to six weeks
    • F2B: Up to one month
    • F3: Two to four weeks
    • F4: Three or four weeks

To see the progress of cutoff date movement please use visit our Visa Bulletin Tracker, which shows more than 10 years of visa bulletin data in one graphic chart and allows you to zoom in/out, and select any categories for comparison

Visa Bulletin Tracker

Visa Bulletin for October 2015: New Format with Dual Charts

The October 2015 Visa Bulletin marks a significant change to the process of determining visa availability. Under the legacy system, there is one cutoff date for each category: You will not be able to submit an application, or if you already have a pending case, it will not be approved, unless your priority date is earlier than the cutoff date set forth in the visa bulletin. The new format, however, includes two visa bulletin charts:

  • One chart contains cutoff dates for Final Action (for example, approval). This is essentially the old visa bulletin where a visa number is officially allocated to a pending case, thus making it eligible for approval.
  • A second chart contains cutoff dates for Filing Applications. What it means is that if your priority date is earlier than the “filing” cutoff date, you may submit your application even if there is no visa number available yet.

The new “filing” chart offers major benefits because it should typically contain cut-off dates much later than the “approval” visa bulletin. As a result, many people will be able to submit their adjustment of status applications (I-485) earlier than under the old, one-chart visa bulletin system.

Take India EB-2 for example, the “approval” cutoff date for October is 01MAY05, but “filing” cutoff date is 01JUL09. So for thousands of applicants whose priority dates fall between 01MAY05 and 01JUL09 – a span of more than four years – they will be allowed to file I-485 starting October 1, 2015. Under the old system, they would have to wait much longer for the “approval” dates to advance before they could do so.

Although filing an I-485 early doesn’t mean you’ll get a green card sooner, there are still many advantages:

  • Apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which may be approved by USCIS rather quickly.
  • Apply for a travel document such as Advance Parole, which in some cases provides more flexibility for travelling overseas than using a visa.
  • Take advantage of AC-21 portability.
  • Obtain certain benefits for spouse and dependent children

The new “filing” visa bulletin should also help the Department of State and USCIS to streamline the visa allocation process. By allowing people to file early, for some categories years early, they will have more accurate data to estimate visa demand and thus establish cutoff dates in a more efficient way. In the future we may see less fluctuation from month to month, or at least, a reduction in the wild swings of cutoff date movement.

The dual-chart visa bulletins apply to both employment-based and family-sponsored categories. So in each visa bulletin, there are actually four charts or tables: Employment Final Action (Approval), Employment Filing, Family Final Action and Family Filing.

The October 2015 Visa Bulletin was originally published on September 9, 2015. On September 25, DOS revised it and modified a total of five cut-off dates (all for “filing”). The updated version supersedes the original one, so if you’re preparing to file I-485 next month, please make sure you’re using the revised cutoff dates.

Happy July 4th!

Fireworks from our small town celebration of July 4th. The two bright white dots in the background are actually Venus and Jupiter.



USCIS Transformation Program: One Billion Over Budget, Four Years Behind Schedule

Remember the transformation program USCIS launched years ago to convert their paper filing system to electronic filing? Well, after 10 years and billions of dollars, it is far from done. The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released a report detailing their progress, and it isn’t pretty:

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) currently expects that its
Transformation Program will cost up to $3.1 billion and be fully deployed no later
than March 2019, which is an increase of approximately $1 billion and delay of
over 4 years from its initial July 2011 baseline. In March 2012, the program
began to significantly change its acquisition strategy to address various technical
challenges (see table).

So in short, the USCIS program is $1 billion over budget and 4 years behind schedule. If this were to happen in the private sector, I don’t know how many companies would be able to survive after a failure of this magnitude. USCIS initially awarded the contract to IBM, which was never mentioned in the GAO report, but later switched to other suppliers. Hopefully this time they can get their act together and accomplish something.

USCIS I-485 Statistics – January to March, 2015

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published the latest performance data of I-485 Applications to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Below is a summary of the total number of I-485 cases by category. For more detailed statistics including service center and field office data, please click here.

 I-485 Applications Performance Data (1/1/2015 – 3/31/2015) : Received Approved Denied Pending
Family-based 71,400 58,697 8,203 188,987
Employment-based 30,846 26,232 1,667 122,812
Humanitarian-based 37,846 35,802 1,162 94,316
Others 6,240 6,440 784 16,964
Total 146,332 127,171 11,816 423,079


  • Family-based: Applications based on a family relationship with an LPR (legal permanent resident, a.k.a. green card holder) or a U.S. citizen.
  • Employment-based: Applications based on employment status, or as an entrepreneur to create a commercial enterprise.
  • Humanitarian-based: Applications covered by Refugees & Asylum, Battered Spouse, Children & Parents and other special humanitarian programs.
  • Received: The number of new applications received and entered into a case-tracking system during the reporting period.
  • Approved: The number of applications approved during the reporting period.
  • Denied: The number of applications denied, terminated, or withdrawn during the reporting period.
  • Pending: The number of applications still awaiting a decision as of the end of the reporting period.
  • Source: Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Performance Analysis System (PAS) , March 2015

Visa Bulletin Tracker – All New Interactive Chart

We’ve just published a new visa bulletin tracker – an interactive chart showing all cutoff dates for all EB2 and EB3 categories, for the past 10 years. Our goal is to provide an easier way for applicants to see the full history of cutoff date movement for their category. The chart is not intended to be a visa bulletin prediction tool, but hopefully with the overall trend it’s showing, along with other information such as DOS’ own prediction, one can have a general idea of visa availability in the coming months.

The visa bulletin chart contains data for all countries in EB-2 and Eb-3. Each series (line) represents one category, and can be turned on or off by clicking on the legend. If you’re using a mobile phone or tablet, simply tap on the color squares to show/hide lines. To zoom in, drag on the chart to select an area so you can see more details. Right click will reset the chart to default. Cutoff dates will appear in tooltips when you mouse over the lines or tap on them if you’re on mobile.

EB1, EB3 Others, EB4, and EB5 are not included in the visa bulletin tracker to avoid making an already busy chart too crowded, but cut-off date for these categories are always available from our Visa Bulletin Toolbox page.

Visa Bulletin Tracker
Visa Bulletin Tracker

Redesign of

If you’re a returned visitor to our website today, you’ll see a completely different layout and design. With weeks of hard work, we’ve now made fully responsive. What it means is that whether you’re using a smartphone, a tablet or a desktop/laptop computer, you will have the same viewing experience because the website automatically adapts to your screen’s size: No more need to zoom and drag just to read the entire page. It is also compatible with all modern browsers including Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and IE 9+, and will display beautifully on Windows, iOS or Android devices.

Other than its look and feel, the new website should also load faster thanks to page speed improvements. CSS, Javascript and images are optimized to provide a better surfing experience. Navigation menu is also redesigned to provide a more touch-friendly interface.

Your favorite tools all remain intact. The green card tracker, visa bulletin toolbox and immigration flow chart all function exactly the same as before.

Having said all this, I personally will miss our old website. After all, I designed it from the ground up and wrote every line of code to make it beautiful, clean and functional. But things have changed. Nowadays a significant portion of our visitors come through a phone or pad, so we have to adapt too. I hope you like the new design, especially if you’re a mobile user. And if you do see a glitch or have a suggestion, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

new immigrationroad website

Happy Moon Festival!

The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated by Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and many other Asian people. By Lunar calendar, the festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month, when the moon is at its fullest. The perfect round shape of the moon symbolizes family reunion.

2014 Moon Festival
2014 Moon Festival