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, 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 May 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.

May 2021 Visa Bulletin: Overview and Predictions

We see some advancement in the employment-based final action dates mostly for China and India and we anticipate EB-2 China and India to continue advancing significantly during the rest of the year. The EB-1 is current for all chargeability areas (China, India, Mexico, Phillipines, Vietnam, Central America, and the rest of the world). We expect to see China and India EB-1 stay current throughout the rest of the year. Final Action cutoff dates for EB-2 China moved forward by 3 months to December 1, 2016. Among other notable changes, EB-2 India moved forward by three months to August 1, 2010; EB-3 China moved forward by two months to May 15, 2018; and EB-3 India advances significantly by five months to February 1, 2011. Looking ahead, we don’t anticipate EB-5 China to advance the rest of the fiscal year but we do predict EB-5 Vietnam to continue advancing.

In the family-based final action cutoff dates category we see all F-2A are current and advancements in all other categories for China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and the rest of the world. We predict that the family-based limit for FY 2022 will remain at 226,000 while the employment-based limit will likely increase to at least 275,000 for FY 2022. 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 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. Family-based immigrant visas continue to see low numbers of usage as a result of the global pandemic and limited appointments available at overseas consular offices. Any family-based visas that are unused get added to the EB categories.

Family-Based Dates for Filing Charts

Here are the dates for filing visa applications. There has been significant movement since last month.

For the purposes of the May 2021 bulletin, USCIS has not yet indicated whether to use the Final Action Date chart or the Dates for Filing chart, however we expect the filing dates to be the same as the April 2021 visa bulletin. We will make updates to this post if USCIS publishes new information.

Category

Rest of the
World

Mainland

China

India

Mexico

Phillipines

F-1
10/1/15

(+17 days)

10/1/15

(+17 days)

10/1/15

(+17 days)

03/01/00

11/1/13

(+2 Months)

F-2A

04/01/21

(+1 Month)

04/01/21

(+1 Month)

04/01/21

(+1 Month)

04/01/21

(+1 Month)

04/01/21

(+1 Month)

F-2B

06/22/16

(+7 Days)

06/22/16

(+7 Days)

06/22/16

(+7 Days)

08/08/00

(+1 month)

1/08/13

(+62 days)

F-3

06/22/09

06/22/09

06/22/09

09/08/00

07/01/03

(+2 months)

F-4

10/01/07

10/01/07

12/01/05

05/08/99

07/01/03

(+2 Months)

*The numbers in bracket designate the amount of movement in 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 May 2021 visa bulletin. We see progression by a week or more in most categories. The most significant advancement was F-4 Philippines which move forward 38 days.

Category

Rest of the
World

Mainland

China

India

Mexico

Phillipines

F-1
10/22/14
(+14 Days) 
10/22/14
(+14 Days) 

10/22/14

(+14 Days) 

04/1/98

(+59 Days) 

2/1/12

(+11 Days) 

F-2A

Current

Current

Current

Current

Current

F-2B

08/15/15

(+1 week) 

08/15/15

(+1 week) 

08/15/15

(+1 week) 

08/15/99

(+25 Days) 

09/15/11

(+14 Days) 

F-3

08/22/08

(+14 days) 

08/22/08

(+14 days) 

08/22/08

(+14 days) 

10/15/96

(+14 Days) 

05/01/02

(+1 month) 

F-4

11/08/06

(+1 week) 

11/08/06

(+1 week) 

4/15/05

(+1 week) 

08/8/98

(+18 days) 

05/01/02

(+31 Days) 

*The numbers in bracket designate the amount of movement in 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, and El Salvador), Vietnam, and the general category. As previously mentioned, we expect to see higher numbers of EB visas available due to the low usage of familiy-based immigrant visas and the subsequent carryover. We’ve seen visa predictions as much as 275,000 available for this fiscal year which is positive news for EB China and India availability.

Employment-Based Final Action Date Charts

Here are the May 2021 visa bulletin final action dates for employment-based immigrant visas.

Please note that USCIS has not specified whether it will use the Final Action Dates Chart or the Dates for Filing chart in the May 2021 bulletin. We will make updates to this page as they become available.

The final action dates for the EB-1 category are current for all countries including China and India. Final action dates for EB-2 China have moved forward by 3 months to December 1, 2016. Among other notable changes, EB-2 India has moved forward by three months to August 1, 2010, EB-3 China has moved forward by two months to May 15, 2018, and EB-3 India advances by five months to February 1, 2011. Final Action Dates for people born in Central America in the EB-4 category advances one month to September 1, 2018, and for people born in Mexico, it advances one month to March 15, 2019. It’s possible that EB-2 and EB-3 cutoff dates might move ahead significantly in Fiscal Year 2022, but we’ll have to wait later in the year to be sure. No advancement is expected to happen for the remainder of this year for EB-5 China because there are over 9,000 people waiting for their final action dates to be current. Moreover, the cutoff date for EB-5 Vietnam will likely continue advancing, however, if demand significantly increases we may see slowdowns. 


Rest of
the World

Mainland

China

India

Mexico

Phillipines

Vietnam

Central

America

EB-1
Current
Current

Current

Current

Current

Current

Current

EB-2

Current

12/01/16

(+3 months)

08/01/10
(+3 months)

Current

Current

Current

Current

EB-3

Current

05/15/18

(+2 months)

02/01/11
(+5 Months)

Current

Current

Current

Current

EB-3

Other

Current

08/01/09

(+2 Months)

02/01/11
(+5 Months)

Current

Current
Current

Current

EB-4

Current

Current

Current

03/15/19

(+42 days)

Current

Current

09/01/18

(+1 Month)

EB-5

Current 

08/15/15

Current 

Current 

Current
02/18/18
(+3 Months)

Current 

*The numbers in bracket designate the amount of movement in 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 May 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 March 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 both the green card category 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.

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 you can file it 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. 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 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.