Each month, the Department of State releases the final action dates for the green cards that are currently available. If you are waiting on our priority date to be current, or are not sure what final action and priority dates are, this report is for you. We will go over how the dates have moved from last month and what we can expect in future months down the road. March 2018 Visa Bulletin Dates If you are new to the green card journey, terms such as "priority date" and "final action date" my seem confusing at first. Let's break these concepts down before diving into the March 2018 visa bulletin report so that you can better understand the significance of the dates. Priority Date Your priority date is the day that the USCIS receives your petition (not the date that you file it). You should always keep this date handy, as it is vital to the next few steps of your green card process. If you are pursuing an employment-based green card and you change jobs or employers, you will likely need to file a new petition. This will reset your priority date to the date that the USCIS receives your second petition unless you indicate on the second petition that you would like to retain the priority date from the first. For example, if you had filed petition A which the USCIS received on September 1, 2017, and you decided to change jobs, your new employer would need to file a new petition (petition B). Let's say that petition B was received on February 8, 2018. By indicating that you would like to retain your priority date on petition B, you can have your priority date stay at September 1, 2017 instead of having it reset to February 8, 2018. This is especially helpful if you are interested in "porting" your green card status from one preference level to a higher one. Final Action Date The final action date is the date that the Department of State releases in the monthly visa bulletin. If you see that your priority date matches or passes the final action date given in your preference level and country, a visa number will become available and you will be able to move onto the next step along the immigration road. Family-Sponsored Visa Category The first large group of immigrant visas (green cards) that we will be reporting is based on having a family member who is either a U.S. citizen or a green card holder. This group has four main preference levels and five chargeability areas (geographical regions based on the volume of petitions). Those areas are China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and the general category (unlisted countries). Here are the final action dates for family-based visas according to the March 2018 visa bulletin: First Preference The F1 is for the children and dependents of U.S. citizens. \tThe dates for China, India, and the general category have all moved forward one week from March 15, 2011, to March 22, 2011. \tThe date for Mexico has moved forward three weeks from July 1, 1996, to July 22, 1996. \tThe date for the Philippines has moved forward ten weeks from August 1, 2005, to October 15, 2005. Second Preference The F2 green card has two subcategories: F2A: this is for unmarried children younger than 21 and spouses of lawful permanent residents (green card holders). \tThe dates for China, India, the Philippines, and the general category have all moved forward three weeks from March 1, 2016, to March 22, 2016. \tThe date for Mexico has moved forward one month from February 1, 2016, to March 1, 2016. F2B: this is for married children who are older than 21 of lawful permanent residents. \tThe dates for China, India, and the general category have all moved forward six weeks from January 15, 2011, to March 1, 2011. \tThe date for Mexico has moved forward five weeks from September 8, 1996, to October 15, 1996. \tThe date for the Philippines has moved forward six weeks from July 22, 2006, to September 8, 2006. Third Preference The married children of U.S. citizens may qualify for the F3 green card. \tThe dates for China, India, and the general category have all moved forward one month from November 15, 2005, to December 15, 2005. \tThe date for Mexico has not seen any movement and remains on June 22, 1995. \tThe date for the Philippines has moved forward one week from March 15, 1995, to March 22, 1995. Fourth Preference Last, but not least, siblings (brothers and sisters) of U.S. citizens can petition for an F4 green card. \tThe dates for China and the general category have moved forward one month from July 22, 2004, to August 22, 2004. \tThe date for India has moved forward three weeks from January 8, 2004, to February 1, 2004. \tthe date for Mexico has moved forward one week from November 8, 1997, to November 15, 1997. \tThe date for the Philippines has moved forward seven weeks from October 1, 1994, to November 22, 1994. Family-Sponsored Visa Charts Here is the chart for family-based visas taken from the Department of State website. Employment-Based Category This group of immigrant visas is, as the name suggests, based on gaining employment from a U.S. employer in the country. Like the family-based visas, this group is similarly broken down into five preference levels and six chargeability areas. The areas are China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador), and the general category. Due to the low volume of petitions for the fourth and fifth preference levels, we will only focus on the first three. Here is how the final action dates for employment-based green cards have moved according to the March 2018 visa bulletin. First Preference This is the most prestigious level of employment-based green cards. It does not require a PERM Labor Certification and is designed for three groups of people: \tThose that have extraordinary achievements in their field qualify for the EB-1A. This green card does not require a job offer and applicants can self-petition. \tThose that are outstanding researchers and professors can get the EB-1B. \tThose that are the executives and managers of multinational companies qualify for the EB-1C. All dates for the EB-1 are current. Second Preference The EB-2 is the most popular employment-based visa due to it's requirements and prestige. It is meant for those that have advanced degrees, can demonstrate exceptional ability in their field, or qualify for a National Interest Waiver. \tThe dates for Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, and the general category are all current. \tThe date for China has moved forward nine weeks from October 1, 2013, to December 8, 2013. \tThe date for India has moved forward one week from December 8, 2008, to December 15, 2008. Third Preference The last preference level that we will cover is the EB-3, which was created for professional workers (those with bachelor's degrees), skilled workers (those with 2 or more years of experience), and "other workers" (those with fewer than 2 years of experience. \tThe dates for Central America, Mexico, and the general category are all current. \tThe date for China has moved forward one month from October 15, 2014, to November 15, 2014. \tThe date for India has moved forward one month from December 1, 2006, to January 1, 2007. \tThe date for the Philippines has moved forward two months from March 1, 2016, to May 1, 2016. Note that the "other workers" category has slightly different dates than the others. \tThe date for "other workers" from China has moved forward one month from February 1, 2007, to March 1, 2007. Employment-Based Visa Charts Here is the chart for employment-based visas taken from the Department of State website. March 2018 Visa Bulletin Predictions This month has seen the most movement for the family-based visas in the last several months. If more funding and manpower is invested by the government into the Department of State, we will definitely begin to see a dramatic leap in the dates. For now, we can expect to see similar changes in the coming months. How You Can Stay Updated In the world of immigration law, ignorance is not an excuse. It is up to you to be aware of any changes to fees, forms, and requirements for your green card. The best way to stay up-to-date is to subscribe to the Department of State newsletter, which will make sure that you get information like the March 2018 visa bulletin as soon as it is released. To subscribe, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the message "Subscribe Visa Bulletin". How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help It doesn't matter which green card you are pursuing, immigrant visas represent a significant amount of both time and money. Even if you are just waiting on your priority date to be current, problems can always arise before you receive your green card. The best way to protect your investment is to hire an expert for your corner. Here at SGM Law Group, our highly-experienced attorneys have been helping people like you immigrate to the U.S. through both family and employment for decades. Whether you're in the middle of the green card process or just starting one, we can help you make sure everything is done right the first time. To get in touch with one of our attorneys, you can fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation today!