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.

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.

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

September 2013 Visa Bulletin and Prediction for New Fiscal Year

The Department of State’s Visa Office today released the Visa Bulletin for September, 2013. Being the last month for the current fiscal year, it carries special weight because all visa numbers must be allocated before they are wasted.

All retrogressed EB categories, with the only exception being China EB-2, advanced for September. EB-2 India, benefiting from visa spill-over, jumbed another five months to June 15, 2008. Employment-based third preference also moved significantly, with China, Mexico and ROW EB3 advancing one and half years.

Chargeability Preference September Cut-off Date Movement from August (Days)
China Second (EB2) 2008-8-8 0
India Second (EB2) 2008-6-15 166
ROW Third (EB3) 2010-7-1 546
China Third (EB3) 2010-7-1 546
India Third (EB3) 2003-9-22 243
Mexico Third (EB3) 2010-7-1 546
Philippines Third (EB3) 2006-12-1 40

Surprisingly, the family-sponsored F2A category remained “current” for September. Given its multi-year backlog before last month’s visa bulletin, I thought that one month’s “current” status would have drawn a dramatic increase in visa demand, and in turn pushing F2A back to retrogression. If you fall into this category, however, you may want to hurry up and catch the train while you can, because it certainly won’t last.

The Visa Office also offered their assessment of current visa demand and predictions for the near future:

D. VISA AVAILABILITY

FAMILY-sponsored:

F2A: This category was made “Current” in an effort to generate new demand for the upcoming fiscal year. Information received during discussions with the National Visa Center and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services indicates that this action is already having the intended result. Therefore, it is likely that a cut-off will be imposed for October. This cut-off is unlikely to have any negative impact on those who have already initiated action on their case prior to the announcement of the October cut-off dates.

EMPLOYMENT-based:

SECOND:

India: This cut-off date has been advanced significantly more than originally expected, based on the projection that there would be “otherwise unused” numbers under the overall Employment Second preference annual limit. This is the result of a decrease in Employment First preference number use, and a similar decrease in Employment Second preference demand for most other countries during the past two months. It is expected that such movement will generate a very significant amount of new India demand during the coming months.

THIRD:

The Employment-based Third preference cut-off date for most countries was advanced at an extremely rapid pace in April through July in an effort to generate demand. Historically such movements have resulted in a dramatic increase in applicant demand for numbers within a few months. At this time there is no indication that the expected increase is materializing or will do so in the near future. This has resulted in significant movements in the September cut-off for all countries.

It is unlikely that there will be any forward movement of most Employment-based cut-off dates during the next couple of months. In addition, a sudden surge in demand could require the retrogression of a cut-off date at any time. Such action would be required if it appears that such number use could impact visa availability under the FY-2014 annual limits.

August 2013 Visa Bulletin: EB2-India and F2A Advance Significantly

August 2013 Visa Bulletin was released today by the Department of State. EB2-India finally started moving, advancing more than three years to 2008-01-01. Family-sponsored F2A category abruptly became “Current” for all countries. EB-3 categories, however, remained largely unchanged after enjoying significant forward movement over the past few months.

Cut-off Date Movement from July to August 2013
Chargeability Preference Cut-off Date Movement (Days)
China Second (EB2) 0
India Second (EB2) 1217
ROW Third (EB3) 0
China Third (EB3) 0
India Third (EB3) 0
Mexico Third (EB3) 0
Philippines Third (EB3) 21

 

DOS offered an explanation:

FAMILY-sponsored: F2A: This category has become “Current” for August, and is expected to remain so for the next several months. This action has been taken in an effort to generate an increased level of demand. Despite the fact that there are large amounts of registered F2A demand, currently there are not enough applicants who are actively pursuing final action on their case to fully utilize all of the available numbers.

EMPLOYMENT-based: India Second: This cut-off date has been advanced in an effort to fully utilize the numbers available under the overall Employment Second preference annual limit. It is expected that such movement will generate a significant amount of new India demand during the coming months.

These changes for the Family F2A, and India Employment Second preference categories reflect actions which have been taken based on current applicant demand patterns. Readers should expect that some type of “corrective” action will be required at some point during FY-2014 in an effort to maintain number use within the applicable annual limits. Such action would involve the establishment and retrogression of such cut-off dates, and could occur at any time. – DOS

For India EB2, here is what one-year’s misery looks like:

VB Year VB Month Cut-Off Date (Y-M-D) Movement (days) Wait Time (days)
2013 8 2008-01-01 1217 2039
2013 7 2004-09-01 0 3225
2013 6 2004-09-01 0 3195
2013 5 2004-09-01 0 3164
2013 4 2004-09-01 0 3134
2013 3 2004-09-01 0 3103
2013 2 2004-09-01 0 3075
2013 1 2004-09-01 0 3044
2012 12 2004-09-01 0 3013
2012 11 2004-09-01 0 2983
2012 10 2004-09-01 2952
2012 9 U Unavailable Unavailable
2012 8 U Unavailable Unavailable
2012 7 U Unavailable Unavailable
2012 6 U Unavailable Unavailable
2012 5 2007-08-15 990 1721
2012 4 2010-05-01 0 701
2012 3 2010-05-01 120 670
2012 2 2010-01-01 365 761
2012 1 2009-01-01 292 1095

May 2013 Visa Bulletin: Good News for Most EB-3 Categories

The Department of State today released the May 2013 Visa Bulletin with some good news for EB-3 categories. ROW, China and Mexico have all moved forward by more than five months! The rest of EB-3 and China EB-2 made small progress, while India EB2 remained unchanged. See the table below:

Cut-off Date Movement from April to May 2013
Chargeability Preference Cut-off Date Movement (Days)
China Second (EB2) 44
India Second (EB2) 0
ROW Third (EB3) 153
China Third (EB3) 223
India Third (EB3) 14
Mexico Third (EB3) 153
Philippines Third (EB3) 7

 

DOS offered an explanation for the EB3 advancing trend:

The Employment-based Third preference category cut-off date for most countries has advanced significantly. This has been done in an attempt to generate demand so that the annual numerical limits may be fully utilized, and such movements may continue for the next few months. The rapid movement of cut-off dates is often followed months later by a dramatic increase in demand for numbers. Once such demand begins to materialize the cut-off date movements will begin to slow or stop.

Our visa bulletin tracking graph demonstrated the trend for EB-3, which has been steadily improving (declining curve) since early 2012 for ROW, China and Mexico, but deteriorating for India and the Philippines:

May 2013 Visa Bulletin EB3

July 2012 Visa Bulletin – ROW EB-2 Retrogression

The July 2012 Visa Bulletin was released today and the headline was the establishment of a cut-off date of 2009-01-01 for EB-2 ROW (all countries other than those listed separately). Although DOS has recently warned of potential retrogression for EB2 ROW, the backward movement of 3+ years still came as a surprise to many. After all, the EB2 ROW category has been “Current” for all but two months in the last decade!

The retrogression was obviously caused by heavy demand for visa numbers, but what caused such a high demand this year? My first guess would be EB3 to EB2 conversions, given that ROW EB3 has been hovering around a six-year wait which could give people enough motivation to make the switch. Unfortunately there is no government data on this subject so we can only guess. Of course, it could simply be that more people are applying for green cards, although I’m a bit skeptical given the state of the U.S. economy in recent years.

Now a brief recap of the July Visa Bulletin:

  • EB1 remains current across the board;
  • EB2 India and China remain “unavailable”;
  • EB2 ROW, as well as Mexico and Philippines, moves back three years to 2009-01-01;
  • EB3 moves forward by a few weeks for all categories;
  • EB3-Other moves forward at its usual pace, with China finally starting to advance;

Potential Visa Retrogression Stirs Protest Against EB1C

A prediction from Charles Oppenheim about EB-2 retrogression has sent a shock wave among I-485 applicants, likely prompting a protest against the much easier venue classified as EB1-C for international managers.

Mr. Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the Department of State, announced at the AILA Midwest Regional Conference on March 16 that EB-2 priority dates for India and China could potentially retrogress all the way back to August 2007! Any this may happen during either the May or June 2012 Visa Bulletin.

His prediction, always considered trustworthy given his position, caused widespread frustration among EB-2 filers. It seemed particularly disappointing because the category’s cutoff dates have been advancing rapidly for months. However, many people were kind of expecting the bad news, since Mr. Oppenheim did warn about potential retrogression at some point this year. So it was his other prediction that appeared to be hurting: No EB1 spillover to EB2 this year.

A visa “spill-over” means that unused visa numbers for a given EB preference are re-allocated to the next category. In recent years, spillover from EB-1 has helped the EB-2 category tremendously. But Mr. Oppenheim believes that all EB-1 visa numbers will be consumed within the category this year. On top of that, due to the government’s heavy promotion of investor visas, the EB-5 category will likely exhaust their allotment as well.

So all of these have painted a bleak future for EB-2 for the remainder of FY-2012. Coincidentally, there is now a petition proposing a thorough investigation into EB-1C, reserved for multinational managers or executives. A group has set up a petition to Congress: Stop EB1 C ABUSE and FRAUDULENT filing. Here is what the petition says:

We would like to appraise you of a particular area of United States Immigration law that has a huge potential of fraud and misrepresentation along with being unfairly biased in favor of the people who choose to abuse it. We are talking about the Employment-based first preference category EB1C (International Managers). As you are already probably aware, the requirements for eligibility in that category is just a year of overseas managerial experience in a company that conducts business in both US and abroad. We are sure you will agree that compared to the fair and stringent requirements of EB1A (persons of exceptional ability) and EB1B (outstanding researchers), this is a rather simple qualification to prove. Moreover it opens up avenues for fraud and misrepresentation particularly by overseas companies doing business in USA to unfairly take advantage of this simple requirement.

In some cases, a journey from L1 visa to EB1C green card does appear to be much shorter, compared to those who studied in the U.S. for a degree and then had to wait many years for their EB2 or EB3 green cards. On the other hand, there are indeed people who worked really hard overseas, climbed up the ranks, and eventually got transferred to the States as managers. So I hope the petition, if fruitful, will help block the loopholes where (staffing) companies simply assign manager titles to people for the purpose of gaining an advantage in immigration, rather than closing the door for legitimate candidates.

April 2012 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State today released the Visa Bulletin for April, 2012. The rapid forward movement of EB-2 in recent months has unfortunately come to a stop. Cutoff dates for both China and India EB2 categories remained the same as March: May 1, 2010. The Visa Office warned about potential slow down or even retrogression of cutoff dates in January, and today it became reality.

Visa bulletins are used to regulate the allocation of visa numbers. When demand goes up, cutoff dates may have to be moved back to prevent accidental over-consumption of visas. On the other hand, if demand level is low and there is a possibility of having unused visa numbers in the end, cutoff dates will be advanced accordingly to avoid wasting any. So there is still a chance that BE-2 will move forward again, and if it does, it will probably happen around July time frame.  In addition, if there is visa spill-over, meaning that unused EB-1 visa numbers are being passed down to EB-2, we might see another jump in the Summer.

Below is China EB2 visa bulletin movement so far for fiscal year 2012 (India EB2 is the same for this period):

VB Year VB Month Cut-Off Date (Y-M-D) Movement (days) Wait Time (days)
2012 4 2010-05-01 0 701
2012 3 2010-05-01 120 670
2012 2 2010-01-01 365 761
2012 1 2009-01-01 292 1095
2011 12 2008-03-15 135 1356
2011 11 2007-11-01 109 1461
2011 10 2007-07-15 91 1539

 

All EB-1 categories, as well as all EB-2 other than India and China, remain current. This means that anyone who belongs to one of these classifications is eligible to file new I-485, and if they already did, their applications are eligible for approval.

All EB-3 categories are still heavily backlogged, while moving at an extremely slow pace from month to month. Here is an comparison for April:

EB-3 Visa Bulletin Cut-Off Date (Y-M-D) Movement (days) Wait Time (days)
ROW April 2012 2006-04-08 24 2185
China April 2012 2005-03-01 59 2588
India April 2012 2002-09-01 10 3500
Mexico April 2012 2006-04-08 24 2185
Philippines April 2012 2006-04-08 24 2185

 

Interestingly, as of late Friday night, the Department of State hasn’t updated their Website to show the April 2012 Visa Bulletin. However, the PDF version was posted earlier today and the voice recording (202-663-1541) has been updated with new cutoff dates for April. So the visa bulletin is indeed official, but it appears that someone at the Visa Office simply forgot to update the visa bulletin page before leaving for the weekend.