visa bulletin

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?”. 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 to help answer these questions. This month, we’ll go over the February 2021 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 to understand the rest of this February 2021 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.

Priority Dates

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 you’ll see listed here in this report of the February visa bulletin for 2021 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.

Priority Date versus Final Action Date

In the past, the monthly visa bulletins used to provide one date for each category of permanent residence applicant – the priority date cutoff. This one date determined whether one was eligible to submit their permanent residence application, and whether it was expected that there would be a visa number available, allowing the application to be approved.

For the past couple of years, the US Department of State provides two charts in the monthly visa bulletin. One chart is  the “Date for Filing” chart which determines whether or not one can submit the final immigrant visa application, and the 2nd chart –  “Final Action Date”  chart indicates whether or not it is expected that an immigrant visa number will be available.

In many cases, the Date for Filing will be well before the Final Action Date, meaning that the alien applicants will be eligible to submit an application for permanent residence well before it is even possible for the government to approve that application. The application can only be approved once the priority date moves into the Final Action Date chart. While in family based categories, USCIS usually accepts I-485s based on the Date of Filing chart, for employment based cases USCIS announces every month if it will accept I-485 filings based on the Date of Filing Chart or the Final Action Date Chart.

So for February, USCIS will accept family based I-485s based on the Dates of Filing Chart while for employment based cases, it will accept I-485 filings based on the Final Action Date Chart.

Family-Based Green Cards

The category for family-based immigration is made up of four preference levels 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.

First Preference

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 move forward two weeks from July 22, 2015 to August 8, 2015.
  • The date for Mexico has moved forward one week from February 22, 2000 to  March 1, 2000.
  • The date for the Philippines has moved forward two weeks from October 8, 2012 to October 22, 2012.

Second Preference

There are two subcategories for the F2:

The F2A is meant for unmarried children who are under the age of 21 and the spouses of lawful permanent residents (green card holders).

  • The dates for all chargeability areas remain current.

The F2B is for the children who are 21 years old or older of lawful permanent residents.

  • The dates for the general category, China, and India have seen a forward movement three weeks from May 1, 2016 to May 22, 2016.
  • The date for Mexico has moved forward by three weeks from December 1, 1999 to December 22, 1999.
  • The date for the Philippines has moved forward two weeks from April 1, 2012 to April 15, 2012.

Third Preference

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 by three weeks from June 1, 2009 to June 22, 2009.
  • The date for Mexico has moved forward a little over three weeks from August 15, 2000 to September 8, 2000.
  • The date for the Philippines has moved forward a little over two weeks December 22, 2002 to January 8, 2003.

Fourth Preference

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 two weeks from September 15, 2007 to October 1, 2007.
  • The date for India has moved from one week November 22, 2005 to December 1, 2005.
  • The date for Mexico has moved forward by two weeks – from April 22, 1999 to May 8, 1999.
  • The date for the Philippines has moved forward one month from September 1, 2002 to October 1, 2002.

Family-Based Dates for Filing Chart

Here are the dates for filing visa applications. Applicants who have a priority date earlier than the application date in the chart may submit the required documents to the DOS National Visa Center.

dates for filing chart family visa

Family-Based Final Action Date Chart

Here are the dates for family-based immigrant visas from the February 2021 visa bulletin.

february 2021 visa bulletin chart

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.

First Preference

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 all remain current.
  • The dates for China and India have moved forward five months from August 1, 2019, to January 1, 2020.

Second Preference

The EB-2 is meant for advanced degree holders, those with exceptional ability, and those 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.
  • China’s date has moved forward two weeks from June 1, 2016, to June 15, 2016.
  • India’s date has moved forward four days from October 8, 2009, to October 12, 2009.

Third Preference

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, the Philippines, and Vietnam all remain current.
  • The date for China has moved forward from December 15, 2017, to January 1, 2018.
  • The date for India has moved forward from March 22, 2010, to April 1, 2010.
  • The date for “other workers” from China has moved forward one month from March 1, 2009, to April 1, 2009.

Fourth Preference

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.
  • Central America’s date has moved forward from a month and a half from March 1, 2018, to April 15, 2019.
  • The date for Mexico has moved forward one week a few weeks from December 1, 2018, to December 15, 2019.
  • The subcategory for “Certain Religious Workers” for the general category, China, India, Philippines, and Vietnam, are current. The date for Central America is April 15, 2018. The date for Mexico is December 15, 2018.

Fifth Preference

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 not seen any movement and remains at August 15, 2015.
  • The date for Vietnam has moved forward from September 15, 2017, to October 1, 2017.
  • The subcategory for “Regional Centers” is current for the general category, Central America, India, Mexico, and the Philippines. China’s date is August 15, 2015, and the date for Vietnam is October 1, 2017.

Employment-Based Final Action Date Chart

Here are the February 2021 visa bulletin dates for employment-based immigrant visas.

final action dates february 2021 visa bulletin

February 2021 Visa Bulletin Overview and Predictions

The February 2021 Visa Bulletin shows small forward movement in many employment-based categories. The EB-1 category for those in China and India saw the most forward movement. However, the final action dates for EB-2, EB-3, EB-4, and EB-5 see minimal movement forward. 

In the coming months expect the family-based visa categories to advance around two to three weeks. The F2A category will likely remain current. For employment-based categories, you’ll likely continue to see rapid movement in China and India for the EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3. The State Department expects the movement in family-based and employment-based categories to last until May 2021.

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 to file an I-140 for a green card and chargeability area with 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.

Staying Up-to-Date

In the world of immigration law, it always pays to be informed. The more 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 February 2021 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 your first attempt is done the right way. A certified immigration attorney can help you avoid the common pitfalls of immigration law and help you make the best decisions for your case in the future.

Here at our firm, our immigration lawyers have extensive experience helping people obtain green cards through their families and through their employment, as well as interpreting the February 2021 visa bulletin. We handle everything for you and give you the best options for your case helpfully and transparently.

To get in touch with our office, you can fill out this contact form and schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.

How Our Green Card Attorneys Can Help

Schedule a Consultation

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 your 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.

Our immigration lawyers have extensive experience helping people obtain green cards through their families and through their employment as well as interpreting the February 2021 visa bulletin. We handle everything for you and can give you the best options for your case in a transparent way.