In September, 2009, USCIS started publishing the total number of pending I-485 (green card) applications, grouped by country, preference, and priority date. This inventory provides valuable data, because for the first time, an applicant is able to know exactly how many people are still waiting ahead of him/her for a green card. So if you are waiting for an immigrant visa, you now have a pretty good idea of your place in line. The shorter the line, the closer you are to a green card.
The green card tracker is based on the USCIS pending I-485 inventory, so its accuracy is as good as the underlying USCIS data. Given that USCIS is the only government authority over I-485 processing, I'd rather trust their official data, although it may be less than 100% accurate, as compared to any other sources.
After the July 2007 visa bulletin fiasco, EB2 and EB3 categories severely retrogressed, especially for China and India. As a result, nobody was able to file a new I-485 application. So if you picked a date within that period of time, the total number of pending applications will not change since there was no new cases added to the pool. Choose a PD earlier than 7/2007 or a country that is not quite oversubscribed, and you will see a different count if you change PD. With visa bulletin slowly progressing, eventually people with PD after 7/2007 will be able to file new I-485 applications.
First of all, you need to know your country of chargeability. This is usually your country of birth or origin. Then, find out your employment-based preference, such as EB-2, EB-3, etc. which is based on your approved Immigrant Petition. Finally, you will also need your priority date (PD), which is the date when you start your immigration process. This is normally the date you applied for labor certification. If LC is not required in your case, your PD is the date when I-140 was filed.
With the above information, located the table that contains data for your country and EB preference. Then add up all the numbers that have an earlier priority date than yours. This is the total number of applicants ahead of you. Click the link above for more detailed description and an example.
A much easier way is to use our Green Card Tracker. It automatically does the calculation based on the same information you provide. In addition, the tracker also displays the number of applications from previous inventories so you don't have to download all the data and calculate them one by one. A bar chart is automatically generated to show the progress over time.
USCIS has indicated that inventory data will be updated quarterly, and based on the release dates so far, it will probably be around March, June, September and December of each year. Our Green Card Tracker will be updated as soon as USCIS releases new inventory data.
Yes, both principal and dependent I-485 applications are included in the inventory.
Yes, the inventory includes cases that have been pre-adjudicated (or pre-approved) but cannot be approved because a visa is not currently available.
The inventory contains all employment-based I-485 applications pending at USCIS, including the ones that are waiting for visas, as well as those that are current (for which visa numbers are available) but have not been completed. What is not included in the I-485 inventory are consular processing cases, which are handled by the Department of State and account for roughly 15% of the toal visa numbers allocated each year.
The 15% figure is an overall estimate; it varies quite a bit from category to category. We do calculate the actual percentage of pending CP cases for each EB class and show the number on the green card tracker report page.
USCIS explained that it was caused by errors, and has fixed them in the second release (December, 2009). More specifically, certain I-485 cases have more than one I-140 applications associated with them, and USCIS accidentally picked the later priority dates. A number of cases were eligible for cross-chargeability but were not listed as such. And there were also data entry errors.
The very old cases had early priority dates, but may have been filed in recent years. Sometimes an applicant may decide not to file an I-485 for several years while his priority date remains current.
Some cases may be stuck or even abandoned for a variety of reasons. It is also possible that people may file I-485 cases late, as discussed above. USCIS' first-in, first-out order may also fluctuate quite a bit for cases with similar priority dates.
Not at this time. However, USCIS has indicated in a blog post (May 3, 2010) that family-based I-485 inventory is being developed. We plan to creat a similar tracker as soon as USCIS releases the data.