One of the biggest parts of getting a green card in the U.S. is waiting for your priority date to be current. For those that have invested the time, effort, and money into an immigrant visa, questions arise such as “How long will it take for my date to be current?” and “Can I speed this process up?”. To help answer these questions, this post will provide regular monthly updates on the most recent visa bulletin, an analysis of the date movements, and what predictions are made about the coming months. This month, we’ll go over the December 2018 visa bulletin.
Important Visa Bulletin Dates
For those that are new to the green card process, there are a few terms that you should learn and keep in mind in order to understand the rest of this December 2018 visa bulletin report. If you have further questions about the process or anything else about your green card, you should consult with your immigration attorney.
The first term that you’ll hear thrown around here and there is the “priority date“. Each person who files a petition with the USCIS receives a priority date, which is the day that the government obtained your petition. Keep this date handy, since you will need it to compare to the dates found in this bulletin. Remember that your priority date does not move and you cannot change it except under certain circumstances.
Final Action Dates
The dates that you’ll see listed here in this report of the December visa bulletin for 2018 are “final action dates”. These dates are based on both the green card preference level (type of green card) and the chargeability area (your country of origin). The final action dates are constantly changing based on how many people from each chargeability area have petitioned for that particular green card.
If the limit for that green card has not been reached, then the final action date will likely move forward, closer to your priority date. If the limit has been reached, then you will not see any movement from that final action date. If the limit has been passed, you may see the date retrogress, or move backward away from your priority date.
Once the final action date in your green card preference level and chargeability area reaches your priority date, your priority date will be considered “current” and you will be able to adjust your status or go through consular processing to obtain your green card. Some of the dates are already current, which means that you can get your green card as soon as your petition is approved without having to wait for your priority date.
Family-Based Green Cards
The category for family-based immigration is made up of four preference levels that are based on who your sponsoring family member is in relation to you. There are five chargeability areas for this category: China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and all other countries (the general category).
There are also marriage-based green cards, but by marrying a U.S. citizen, you are considered an immediate relative and all priority dates for immediate relatives are automatically current.
This first preference level, the F1 green card, was created for the children and dependents over 21 years old of U.S. citizens.
- The dates for the general category, China, and India have all moved forward 6 weeks from June 22, 2011, to August 8, 2011.
- The date for Mexico has not seen any movement and remains at August 1, 1997.
- The date for the Philippines has moved forward two weeks from February 1, 2007, to February 15, 2007.
There are two subcategories for the F2:
The F2A is meant for the unmarried children who are under the age of 21 and the spouses of lawful permanent residents (green card holders).
- The dates for the general category, China, India, and the Philippines have all moved forward three weeks from September 15, 2016, to October 8, 2016.
- The date for Mexico has moved forward three weeks from September 1, 2016, to September 22, 2016.
The F2B is for the the children who are 21 years old or older of lawful permanent residents.
- The dates for the general category, China, and India have all moved forward six weeks from January 1, 2012, to February 15, 2012.
- The date for Mexico has not seen any movement and remains at June 8, 1997.
- The date for the Philippines has moved forward one week from June 1, 2007, to June 8, 2007.
This third preference, or F3 green card, is meant for the married children of U.S. citizens.
- The dates for the general category, China, and India have all moved forward three weeks from July 8, 2006, to August 1, 2006.
- The date for Mexico has not seen any movement and remains at December 22, 1995.
- The date for the Philippines has moved forward two weeks from June 22, 1995, to July 8, 1995.
In this last level, the F4 was created for the siblings (sisters and brothers) of U.S. citizens.
- The dates for the general category and China have moved forward one month from March 22, 2005, to April 22, 2005.
- The date for India has moved forward one week from June 1, 2004, to June 8, 2004.
- The date for Mexico has not seen any movement and remains at February 8, 1998.
- The date for the Philippines has moved forward one month from June 15, 1995, to July 15, 1995.
Family-Based Final Action Date Chart
Here are the dates for family-based immigrant visas from the December 2018 visa bulletin.
Employment-Based Green Cards
With five different preference levels and seven chargeability areas, the employment-based category is issued through your job or occupation. Here, both your sponsor and your personal qualifications will be taken into account. In some cases, you can even sponsor yourself. The chargeability areas are China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), Vietnam, and the general category.
Created for aliens with extraordinary achievement, outstanding researchers and professors, and the managers and executives of multinational companies, the EB-1 allows holders to petition without a PERM Labor Certification.
- The dates for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam have all moved forward three months from April 1, 2017, to July 1, 2017.
- The dates for China and India have both moved forward three months from June 1, 2016, to September 1, 2016.
The EB-2 is meant for advanced degree holders, those that have exceptional ability, and those that are eligible for a National Interest Waiver, which allows holders to self-petition.
- The dates for the general category, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam all remain current.
- The date for China has moved forward six weeks from May 15, 2015, to July 1, 2015.
- The date for India has moved forward five days from March 26, 2009, to April 1, 2009.
In this third level is the EB-3, which is for professional workers (or bachelor’s degree holders), skilled workers (those with more than 2 years of relevant experience), and “other workers” (those with fewer than 2 years of experience).
- The dates for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and Vietnam all remain current.
- The date for China has moved forward one week from June 1, 2015, to June 8, 2015.
- The date for India has moved forward two months from January 1, 2009, to March 1, 2009.
- The date for the Philippines has moved forward one week from June 8, 2017, to June 15, 2017.
- The date for China in the “other workers” category has moved forward one month from May 1, 2007, to June 1, 2007.
EB-4 applicants have special jobs that come from a limited list provided by the USCIS.
- The dates for the general category, China, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam all remain current.
- The date for Central America has moved forward one week from February 15, 2016, to February 22, 2015.
- The date for Mexico has moved forward five weeks from November 22, 2016, to January 1, 2017.
Rather than being based on your employment, the EB-5 is based on making a significant financial investment in a U.S. enterprise.
- The dates for the general category, Central America, India, Mexico, and the Philippines all remain current.
- The date for China has moved forward one week from August 15, 2014, to August 22, 2014.
- The date for Vietnam has moved forward three months from February 1, 2016, to May 1, 2016.
Employment-Based Final Action Date Chart
Here are the December 2018 visa bulletin dates for employment-based immigrant visas.
December 2018 Visa Bulletin Overview and Predictions
On October 1st, the dates mostly returned back from their positions in the previous fiscal year. However, things are slowing down sooner than they had in previous years. In the family-based category, most dates only moved forward a week or so while the dates for Mexico have seen no movement whatsoever. This indicates that more people are petitioning for family-based green cards, bogging down the processing system. A more even distribution is required across the green card categories if the priority date waiting time is going to be shortened.
Can You Shorten Your Waiting Time?
The short answer is: probably not. There are two main cases in which you may be able to shorten your green card processing time which we will explain here.
The first way is if you want to file an I-140 for a green card and chargeability area that has a current priority date. In this case, rather than have to wait the usual six months for your petition to be processed, you can opt to pay an additional fee for premium processing, which will shorten the processing time to 15 calendar days. However, this is only available for certain green cards that use the I-140. It is not available for family- or investment-based immigration and is also not available for the EB-1C or EB-2 NIW.
The second situation involves green card “porting”, or transferring your application from a lower preference level to a higher one to take advantage of the shorter waiting times. This is a bit misleading because you don’t actually port your green card. In reality, you need to start over with a new petition (and a new PERM if necessary). The “porting” aspect only comes in when you indicate that you would like to retain your original priority date.
As attractive as “porting” might seem, it is a very delicate process with particular requirements. It is always a good idea to run decisions like these through your immigration attorney.
In the world of immigration law, it always pays to be informed. The more that you know about your green card, the easier it will be to make informed decisions about your case. To stay in-the-know about things like the December 2018 visa bulletin, you can subscribe to the Department of State’s newsletter by emailing [email protected] with the message “Subscribe Visa Bulletin”.
How Our Green Card Attorneys Can Help
The long, complicated, and often difficult process of obtaining a green card is filled with opportunities to make simple mistakes that could cost you time, effort, and money. With these priority date waiting times being so long, losing time could be devastating. That’s why you need to make sure that you’re first attempt is done the right way. A certified immigration attorney can help you both avoid the common pitfalls of immigration law but also help you make the best decisions for your case going forward.
Here at Immi-USA, our immigration lawyers have extensive experience helping people obtain green cards through their families and through their employment as well as interpreting the December 2018 visa bulletin. We handle everything for you and can give you the best options for your case in a helpful and transparent way.
To get in touch with our office, you can fill out this contact form and schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.