March 2021 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?.” We provide regular monthly updates on the most recent visa bulletin, analyze the date movements, and predict upcoming months to help answer these questions. This month, we’ll go over the October 2021 visa bulletin.

If you want more information on the background of the visa bulletin and how to read the bulletin, make sure to scroll to the bottom of the post or click the interested link in the Table of Contents.

October 2021 Visa Bulletin: Overview and Predictions

No Movement to Final Action Cutoff Dates

We see no movement forward or backward in the employment-based or family-based final action dates charts. There is one minor change in the employment-based final action dates chart for “certain religious workers,” and that is they are listed as unavailable. The reason for this is because the program is expected to expire on September 30, 2021. Should it be renewed, then this category’s cutoff dates will be the same as its respective EB-4 cutoff dates.

For the Family-Based Dates For Filing Chart, we see no change in any country for any preference category. Likewise, we see no change in the Family-Final Action Dates either. All countries in F-2A are current, as they were in the last visa bulletin. The rest of the categories F-1, F-2B, F-3, and F-4 see no change for any country.

For the Dates for Filing chart, we see some movement in the EB-2, EB-3, and EB-3 Other category. All the countries are current in the EB-1 category. There are no changes in the EB-5 dates. In the EB-2 category, we see India move to July 7, 2012, and no change with the EB-2 China date at September 1, 2018. In the EB-3 category, China moves to January 15, 2019, while India moves to January 8, 2014.

Many USCIS offices are still playing catch-up from the months closed last year due to the pandemic. Moreover, U.S. Consulates overseas were closed for a significant period of time (apart from emergency services). Both of these factors mean that overseas consulates and USCIS field offices used fewer visa numbers. Last year, there was less demand for these visas due to the widespread uncertainty of travel and economic conditions. In the upcoming months, we expect the EB-1, EB-4, and EB-5 categories to remain current for all countries of chargeability. We may see the cutoff dates advance for EB-2 China and India in the coming month(s). We do not anticipate any movement for Central America or Mexico in the EB-4 category soon.

To clarify, the Final Action Dates chart determines when an I-485 or IV can be approved, while the Dates for Filing Chart determines when an applicant can file an I-485. In addition, the U.S. Department of State has created a new monthly Visa Bulletin video, led by Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, to expand on the insights contained within the visa bulletin.

Family-Based Green Cards

The category for family-based immigration comprises 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. Due to the global pandemic and limited appointments available at overseas consular offices, family-based immigrant visas continue to see low usage numbers. Therefore, any family-based visas that are unused get added to the EB categories.

Family-Based Dates for Filing Charts

The Dates for Filing chart determines when an applicant can file an I-485. We see no changes at all since the September Visa Bulletin was released in any country.

For the purposes of the October 2021 bulletin Adjustment of Status, USCIS has indicated to use the Dates for Filing chart for all Family-Sponsored preference categories, except the F2A category which should use the Final Action Dates Chart. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.

Category

Rest of the
World

Mainland

China

India

Mexico

Philippines

F-1
5/15/16

(no change)

5/15/16

(no change)

5/15/16

(no change)

08/01/00

(no change)

4/22/15

(no change)

F-2A

06/01/21

(no change)

06/01/21

(no change)

06/01/21

(no change)

06/01/21

(no change)

06/01/21

(no change)

F-2B

09/22/16

(no change)

09/22/16

(no change)

09/22/16

(no change)

10/01/00

+55 days

10/01/13

(no change)

F-3

08/22/09

(no change)

08/22/09

(no change)

08/22/09

(no change)

09/08/00

(no change)

10/01/03

(no change)

F-4

10/01/07

(no change) 

10/01/07

(no change)

1/01/06

(no change)

06/01/99

(no change)

02/1/04

(no change)

*The numbers in the brackets designate the amount of movement in the date of filing for that particular category compared to the previous month. If there’s no bracket below certain dates, that means there is no movement for those dates/categories in the latest visa bulletin.

Family-Based Final Action Date Charts

Here are the final action dates for family-based immigrant visas from the October 2021 visa bulletin. We see no changes at all since the September Visa Bulletin was released in any country. All countries in the F-2A category are current.

Category

Rest of the
World

Mainland

China

India

Mexico

Philippines

F-1
12/01/14
(no change)
12/01/14
(no change)

12/01/14

(no change)

1/15/99

(no change)

3/1/12

(no change)

F-2A

Current

Current

Current

Current

Current

F-2B

09/22/15

(no change)

09/22/15

(no change)

09/22/15

(no change)

03/15/00

(no change)

10/22/11

(no change)

F-3

11/22/08

(no change)

11/22/08

(no change)

11/22/08

(no change)

5/15/97

(no change)

06/08/02

(no change)

F-4

3/22/07

(no change)

3/22/07

(no change)

9/15/05

(no change)

2/08/99

(no change)

08/22/02

(no change)

*The numbers in the brackets designate the amount of movement in the final action date for that particular category compared to the previous month. If there’s no bracket below certain dates, that means there is no movement for those dates/categories in the latest visa bulletin.

Remember, marriage-based green card applicants are known as immediate relatives and don’t have to wait to receive a green card.

Employment-Based Green Cards

With five different preference levels and seven chargeability areas, the employment-based category is issued through your job or occupation. The chargeability areas are China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador), Vietnam, and the general category.

Employment-Based Final Action Dates Chart

We see no movement in the October 2021 employment-based Final Action Dates Chart compared to the September bulletin. The only change in the employment-based final action dates chart for “certain religious workers” and that is they are listed as unavailable. The reason for this is because the program is expected to expire on September 30, 2021. Should it be renewed, then this category’s cutoff dates will be the same as its respective EB-4 cutoff dates.

USCIS has specified to use the Dates for Filing Chart in the Department of State October Visa Bulletin for all employment-based preference categories. USCIS is not accepting any new employment-based fifth preference adjustment of status applications based on the Regional Center Program until that program is reauthorized. 


Rest of
the World

Mainland

China

India

Mexico

Philippines

Central

America

EB-1
Current
Current

Current

Current

Current

Current

EB-2

Current

7/01/18

(no change)
9/01/11
(no change)

Current

Current

Current

EB-3

Current

01/08/19

(no change)
1/01/14
(no change)

Current

Current

Current

EB-3

Other

Current

2/01/10

(no change)

1/01/14
(no change)

Current

Current

Current

EB-4

Current

Current

Current

3/1/20

(no change)

Current

3/15/19

(no change)

EB-5 
(non-regional center)

Current 

11/22/15

(no change)

Current 

Current 

Current

Current 

Employment-Based Dates for Filing Chart

Here are the October 2021 Visa Bulletin Final Action dates for employment-based immigrant visas. In the Dates for Filing chart, we see some movement in the EB-2, EB-3, and EB-3 Other category. All the countries are current in the EB-1 category. EB-2 India moves to July 7, 2012. There is no change with the EB-2 China date of September 1, 2018. In the EB-3 category, we see some changes for China and India. China moves to January 15, 2019, while India moves to January 8, 2014. In the EB-3 Other category, India moves to January 8, 2014, as well. In the EB-4 category, all countries except for those in Central America are current. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras remained on May 15, 2019. No changes in the EB-5 dates.


Rest of
the World

Mainland

China

India

Mexico

Philippines

Central

America

EB-1
Current
Current

Current

Current

Current

Current

EB-2

Current

9/01/18

(no change)
7/08/12
(+7 months, 8 days)

Current

Current

Current

EB-3

Current

01/15/19

(+5 months, 15 days)
1/08/14
(+1 month, 22 days)

Current

Current

Current

EB-3

Other

Current

5/01/10

(no change) 

1/08/14
(+1 month, 22 days)

Current

Current

Current

EB-4

Current

Current

Current
Current

Current

5/15/19
(no change)

EB-5

Current 

12/15/15
(no change) 

Current 

Current 

Current

Current 

*The numbers in the brackets designate the amount of movement in the final action date for that particular category compared to the previous month. If there’s no bracket below certain dates, that means there is no movement for those dates/categories in the latest visa bulletin.

 

Important October 2021 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 October 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.

Visa Bulletin

Priority Dates

The first term that you’ll hear thrown around 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. A priority date establishes a person’s place in line to get an immigrant visa. 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.

Note: Priority dates are not relevant for immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens (e.g., spouses or minor children) as that category is always current.

Final Action Dates

Final action dates are based on the green card category and the chargeability area—your country of origin. Therefore, 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, 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.

Date for Filing Charts and I-485

You’ll notice two charts below for each category.

The Date for Filing chart determines whether or not one can submit the final immigrant visa application.

The Final Action Date chart indicates whether or not it is expected that an immigrant visa number will be available.

If you need to file an adjustment of status, Form I-485, you need to follow the Final Action Date chart to know when to file is based on your priority date. However, sometimes USCIS will note that they’ll accept I-485s based on the Date for Filing chart. This is done when there are more immigrant visas available than applicants.

USCIS announces which chart applicants can use within a week of the visa bulletin’s release.

Can You Shorten Your Waiting Time?

The short answer is: probably not. However, 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 unavailable 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 want to retain your original priority date.

As attractive as “porting” might seem, it is a very delicate process with particular requirements. Therefore, 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 March 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

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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 May 2021 visa bulletin. We handle everything for you and can give you the best options for your case in a transparent way.