Getting a green card to live and work in the United States is the ultimate goal of thousands of immigrants from all over the globe. However, obtaining lawful permanent residency in the U.S. can be a long and tricky process. One major step involves waiting for your priority date to be current. In this April 2018 visa bulletin report, we not only show how the dates have moved, but we also explain each step and give you the chance to stay connected. April 2018 Visa Bulletin Dates If all this talk about priority dates, final action dates, and being "current" seems confusing, that's because it is. That's why we want to demystify this process and give you insights into your own immigration process. Priority Date Your priority date is simply the exact date that the USCIS received your green card petition (not the date you filed it). Make sure to take note of this date, as it will be important in understanding the rest of the 2018 April visa bulletin. It should also be said that it is possible to have your priority date retained if you decide to have a second petition filed that replaces your old one. This is especially helpful if you wish to "port" your green card from one preference level to the next. Speak with your immigration attorney to learn more about this process. Final Action Date Final action dates are the dates you'll see in the visa bulletin. They are usually changing from month to month, so it is important to stay up-to-date with where the final action dates stand. You'll have to compare your priority date with the final action date given for your visa category and your country of origin. Once you priority date matches or passes the final action date given, a visa number will become available and you will be able to adjust your status or set up an appointment for consular processing provided that your petition has been approved. Most of the time, final action dates move forward closer and closer to your priority date. However, there are many times in which final action dates retrogress backward. If the category is already current, that means that, as soon as your petition is processed and approved, a visa number will be available (in these cases, premium processing can help tremendously). Family-Sponsored Visa Category Family-based green cards vary depending on which family member of yours is a U.S. citizen or green card holder. There are four major preference levels and five chargeability areas, which are areas of the world divided according to how many petitions come from that area per year. The areas are China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and the general category (all other countries). Below are the April 2018 final action dates for family-based immigrant visas: First Preference The highest preference level is the F1, which is meant for the children and dependents of U.S. citizens. \tThe dates for the general category, China, and India have all moved forward two weeks from March 22, 2011, to April 8, 2011. \tThe date for Mexico has moved forward six weeks from July 22 1996, to September 8, 1996. \tThe date for the Philippines has moved forward ten weeks from October 15, 2005, to January 1, 2006. Second Preference The next level is the F2, which is further broken down into two subcategories: F2A: for the spouses and unmarried children of green card holders (lawful permanent residents). The children must be younger than 21. \tThe dates for the general category, China, India, and the Philippines have all moved forward five weeks from March 22, 2016, to May 1, 2016. \tThe date for Mexico has moved forward one month from March 1, 2016, to April 1, 2016. F2B: for those who are over the age of 21 and are the children of green card holders. \tThe dates for the general category, China, and India have all moved forward five weeks from March 1, 2011, to April 8, 2011. \tThe date for Mexico has moved forward two weeks from October 15, 1996, to November 1, 1996. \tThe date for the Philippines has moved forward eight weeks from September 8, 2006, to November 1, 2006. Third Preference This third level is for the married children of U.S. citizens. \tThe dates for the general category, China, and India have all moved forward three weeks from December 15, 2005, to January 8, 2006. \tThe date for Mexico has moved forward three weeks from June 15, 1995, to July 8, 1995. \tThe date for the Philippines has not seen any movement and remains at March 22, 1995. Fourth Preference This lowest preference level is for the siblings of U.S. citizens. \tThe dates for the general category and China have moved forward three weeks from August 22, 2004, to September 15, 2004. \tThe date for India has moved forward one week from February 1, 2004, to February 15, 2004. \tThe date for Mexico has moved forward three weeks from November 15, 1997, to December 8, 1997. \tThe date for the Philippines has moved forward three weeks from November 22, 1994, to December 15, 1994. Family-Sponsored Visa Charts Below is the chart for family-based visas pulled from the Department of State website. Employment-Based Category To get one of the immigrant visas in this category, you must go through your employment in the United States. In most cases, you need a job offer from a U.S. employer, though there are some exceptions. Much like the family-based visas, there are five preference levels and six chargeability areas. The areas are China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Central America (only El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala), and the general category. For the purposes of this visa bulletin report, we'll only focus on the top three preference levels. First Preference The top level for employment-based green cards is the EB-1, which does not require a PERM Labor Certification and, in some cases, does not require a job offer. Those that qualify include those with extraordinary achievements in their field, outstanding researchers and professors, and multinational executives and managers. \tThe dates for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and the Philippines are all current. \tThe dates for China and India have retrogressed and now stand at January 1, 2012. Second Preference The second level is the EB-2, which is for those that possess advanced degrees (master's or higher), those that can show that they have exceptional ability in their field, and those that qualify for a National Interest Waiver, which would excuse them from the PERM requirement. \tThe dates for the general category, Central America, Mexico, and the Philippines are all current. \tThe date for China has moved forward seven months and three weeks from December 8, 2013, to August 1, 2014. \tThe date for India has moved forward one week from December 15, 2008, to December 22, 2008. Third Preference The last preference level that we will discuss is the EB-3. This green card is for professional workers (bachelor's degrees), skilled workers (2+ years of experience), and "other workers" (fewer than 2 years of experience). Note that the "other workers" subcategory has slightly different dates for those from China. \tThe dates for the general category, Central America, and Mexico are all current. \tThe date for China has moved six and a half months from November 15, 2014, to June 1, 2015. \tThe date for India has moved forward thirteen months from January 1, 2007, to February 1, 2008 \tThe date for the Philippines has moved forward eight months from May 1, 2016, to January 1, 2017. Employment-Based Visa Charts below is the chart for employment-based visas pulled from the Department of State website. April 2018 Visa Bulletin Predictions Perhaps the most surprising movement is the retrogression of the EB-1 for both China and India. In their bulletin, the Department of State attributes this to the fact that the EB-1 has been oversubscribed in these countries. Even though this tends to happen each year, the surprising fact is that it is happening so early on in the fiscal year. Under normal circumstances, we can't expect to see any change until October 1st. However, the DOS also says "Should the level of worldwide demand for EB-1 numbers decline, there could be some future movement in this date prior to the end of the fiscal year." How You Can Stay In-The-Know No matter what you are working toward in immigration, it always pays to be up to speed on any changes regarding your case. To get regular updates like the April 2018 visa bulletin, you can subscribe to the Department of State's newsletter by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the message "Subscribe Visa Bulletin". How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help As we said earlier, getting a green card can be a difficult and long process, and understanding the April 2018 visa bulletin can be a hurdle. Trying to undertake any endeavor in the world of immigration law can be tricky if you are not well-versed in the processes and legality of it. That's why it's always best to hire an expert to be on hand to answer any questions, guide your decisions, and fight on your behalf if obstacles arise. VisaNation Law Group specializes in green cards whether they are employment or family-based. Their dedicated team of South Florida attorneys have helped countless people like yourself find a permanent home in the U.S. through a variety of different methods. To get in touch with one of their experienced attorneys, you can fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation today.