Finally, USCIS delivered! Now you have an official USCIS green card tracker.
The “pending I-485 data” posted on the new uscis.gov website is exactly what we have been waiting for. The i-485 inventory chart not only displays the total number of pending green card applications, but is broken down by priority date, preference category and country of origin. These three levels of details determine your position in the waiting line, and can give you a much better estimate of when your adjustment of status (green card) application will be processed.
1. Country of Origin
There are essentially five lines for employment-based green cards, separated by country of chargeability. The five lines are China, India, Mexico, the Phillipines, and All Other Countries (a.k.a. Rest of World – ROW). The monthly visa bulletin, which determines who is eligible for a visa number, releases visas based on chargeability. Historically China, India, Mexico and the Phillipines are “over-subscribed” countries, meaning there are more applicants from these countries than visa numbers available each year. As a result, these countries are tracked separately in the visa bulletin and USCIS’ i-485 inventory report.
2. Preference Category
Each of the five country-specific lines is further divided by preference categories. For example, EB-1 priority workers, EB-2 professionals with advanced degrees, EB-3 skilled workers, etc. The average waiting time for green card varies dramatically from one preference to another. USCIS did an excellent job by compiling and also presenting the data in the reports.
3. Priority Date
A priority date is when the green card process officially starts, which is usually the date when labor certification or I-140 is filed. Your priority date (PD) determines your position in the line, for your EB category and country of chargeability. This is the one piece of information that tells you exactly how many people are in front of you. USCIS breaks the total number of pending I-485 cases down to each month of a given year based on priority date.
How do I use the green card tracker?
Suppose you are from China, have a priority date of March 2007, and your immigrant petition is in EB2, you can see from the chart below that 786 applicants with a priority date in the same month and year as yours are waiting in line in the EB2 China category. You don’t have to know how many of the 786 people are in front you, because quite likely all of you will become eligible for a visa on the same day.
Now the more important question is how many people have a priority date earlier than yours. Again from the chart, you simply add up all the numbers before March 2007:
1 + 1 +2 + 13 + 20 + 35 + 123 + 4,084 + 8,581 + 743 + 671 = 14274
So there are a total of 14274 applicants from China in EB-2 category who are in front you in the waiting line for green card. You can’t find this level of detail and precision anywhere else.
How do I know when my green card will be approved?
Unfortunately you don’t know that yet, at least not accurately, since this is the first time USCIS published such report. USCIS plans to update the green card tracker every quarter. So after the next one, you will know how many people ahead of you (or behind you, for some reason) have received their green card or otherwise left the line. Comparing that with the Visa Bulletin, you will have a better idea of how much longer you have to wait for your turn.
Pending I-485 Adjustment of Status Applications based on Priority Date for China EB-2:
|China EB2||1997||1998||1999||2000||2001||2002||2003||2004||2005||2006||2007||2008||2009||Grand Total|