Understanding the Visa Bulletin

UPDATE: See my more recent post: Interpreting the Visa Bulletin (5/29/2020)


The forthcoming Visa Bulletin for July 2019 includes an EB-5 final action data for India for the first time, and no change from June to the EB-5 final action dates for China and Vietnam.

Chart A. Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases [excerpt from July 2019 visa bulletin]

All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed
5th Non-Regional Center
(C5 and T5)
C 01OCT14 01MAY17 01OCT16
5th Regional Center
(I5 and R5)
C 01OCT14 01MAY17 01OCT16

Chart B. Dates for Filing of Employment-Based Visa Applications [excerpt from July 2019 visa bulletin]

All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed
5th Non-Regional Center
(C5 and T5)
C 01NOV14 C
5th Regional Center
(I5 and R5)
C 01NOV14 C

For people who want to understand these charts, I suggest: ignore us bloggers and read the visa bulletin itself from top to bottom. Department of State takes care to explain clearly what the dates and charts mean, and what to expect going forward. The internet, on the other hand, is currently awash in confusing and faulty information.

So read the bulletin, and try this quiz. Are the following statements true or false?

  1. The EB-5 category is current, and expected to remain current, for everyone except applicants born in China, Vietnam, and India. Current means that EB-5 visa numbers can be issued to all applicants as soon as they are qualified, with no wait for visa availability.
  2. During July 2019, India-born EB-5 applicants abroad can still continue to submit documents to NVC regardless of priority date, but only those with priority dates before May 1, 2017 can receive visas.
  3. During July 2019, I-485 can be neither filed nor approved for India-born EB-5 applicants with priority dates more recent than May 1, 2017.  Those with priority dates before May 1, 2017 are free to file I-485 and may receive visas.
  4. In general, I-485 filings must follow the Final Action Dates in Chart A, not the Dates for Filing in Chart B, unless USCIS specifies otherwise on its www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo page.
  5. During August and September 2019, Department of State does not expect to issue any EB-5 visas to India or Vietnam. It expects to use up 2019 visas available to those countries in July. It’s possible that a few more EB-5 visas may be issued to China-born applicants in August and September.
  6. A final action date in the July 2019 visa bulletin means that DOS counted up known qualified applicants of June 6, 2019, and determined that qualified applicants exceeded the number of visas available for the year. Known qualified applicants include people documentarily qualified at the National Visa Center and adjustment of status applicants, as reported by consular officers and USCIS.
  7. The final action date for India means that May 1, 2017 marks the head of the line of Indian applicants who can’t yet move forward with the visa process. It means that  DOS thinks it has only enough 2019 EB-5 visas left to accommodate currently-qualified Indian applicants with priority dates of April 30, 2017 and earlier.
  8. When 2020 visas become available in October 2019, then the final action dates for Vietnam and India will move forward again. In October, Department of State expects to start issuing EB-5 visas to Indians with priority dates in summer or fall 2017, and to Vietnamese with priority dates in fall or early winter 2016.
  9. The July 2019 visa bulletin applies to July 2019. While it’s still June, we operate under the June 2019 visa bulletin, which has no final action date for India.

The above statements are all true, according to the visa bulletin.

  1. Answered in the Visa Bulletin Chart A (in the Employment Based section) and Section G (near the bottom of the page)
  2. Answered in the Visa Bulletin Chart A and B (in the Employment Based section)
  3. Answered in the Visa Bulletin Chart A and B (in the Employment Based section)
  4. Answered in the Visa Bulletin opening paragraph #2
  5. Answered in the Visa Bulletin Section F and G (near the bottom of the page)
  6. Answered in the Visa Bulletin opening paragraphs
  7. Answered in the Visa Bulletin opening paragraphs
  8. Answered in the Visa Bulletin Section F and G (near the bottom of the page)

And to again combat a persistent and pernicious misconception, a reminder: today’s visa bulletin does not provide a visa time estimate for today’s investors.

Here’s a story problem. Let’s say you enter an office and pick a number that determines when you’ll be served. The office had opened at 6 am, and started issuing numbers at that time starting with number 1. The office can serve about 700 people per hour, and has been operating at capacity since 6 am. When you arrive, you get number 5,852.  While you were arriving, the intercom was announcing, “now serving #1,750, Fred Smith.” How do you calculate when you will be served? Which information provided is relevant to solving the problem?

The simplest answer is 5,852/700=8.4.   6 am + 8.4 hours = 2:24 pm for expected service. The intercom announcement when you walked in the door is irrelevant to your time. Fred’s wait time does not bear on your wait time.

A guy at the door may point to the intercom and reassure you “Don’t worry, the wait won’t be long. Listen, Fred Smith is already getting service and it’s only 8:30 am – so the wait must be 2.5 hours at most.” Ignore that guy. Your time of service results from the time it takes to process the 5,851 people who got into the office before you did. Your wait time is unlikely to match the wait of someone with 1,749 people earlier than he was.

Now to align this analogy to EB-5. A couple months ago, Charles Oppenheim estimated that there were 5,851 Indians in line for EB-5 visas as of May 6, 2019, and therefore an India-born investor entering the end of that line on May 6, 2019 would wait 8.4 years for a visa. The wait time for someone with a May 6, 2019 priority date is determined by the time it takes to move the applicants with earlier priority dates through the system at a rate of approximately 700 per year. Today’s visa bulletin announcement is irrelevant to the 2019 investor’s wait time. Someone will say “Don’t worry, the wait won’t be long. Look, the July 2019 Visa Bulletin says the Indian applicant with April 2017 priority date can get a visa in July 2019 – so apparently we’re looking at a modest visa wait of 2.5 years.” Ignore that. The wait time for the person with a 2017 priority date does not translate to someone entering with a 2019 priority date at the end of a larger backlog.

Consider the May 2015 visa bulletin, which gave China its first final action date of May 2013. “Just two years to wait, not bad,” thought some new investors, and the market continued to flourish in ignorance. But Chinese who invested in May 2015 are still not even close to getting a visa now, four years later. The May 2015 visa bulletin gave a wait time for May 2013 petitions, not for May 2015 petitions. China-born investors in May 2015 needed to know, instead, the size of the China backlog in May 2015, and the number of visas available going forward.

Back to India, what can we do with this equation: 5,852/700=8.4

8.4 years is not a good number for marketing to India. Many would say that’s too long to wait for conditional permanent residence, and creates too much risk from material change and redeployment during the wait time. And the time has only been getting longer as more people have invested and added to the backlog.

We need a result less than eight years, which means that the numerator (5,851+applicant backlog) needs to be smaller, or the denominator (about 700 visas per year)  needs to be larger.  Some promoters with knowledge of the market make the numerator smaller by asserting that Department of State/USCIS have unreliable data that overestimated the number of people in the backlog. These promoters estimate that the true backlog is at least 50% smaller, and wait times thus at least 50% shorter, than estimated by Charles Oppenheim. The numerator will become smaller if many past investors give up or lose eligibility over the course of the wait time. Meanwhile, our people in Washington are, we hope, trying their best to make the denominator larger by advocating for more visa numbers. So long as the country wants a lot of investment, it must have enough visas to accommodate that investment. Otherwise, wait times are discouraging for potential investors from China, India, and Vietnam who believe the backlog data and do the math, and tragic for previous investors who were not informed about the backlogs.

Finally, a reprise of my handy image of the EB-5 process. And a few reminders. My data repository is on the EB-5 timing page. I set up an EB-5 Timing Estimate Service for anyone who wants a mathematical time estimate and explanation specific to his or her own priority date, or to the priority dates of their investors. And for those more worried about China than India, IIUSA promises to have a new post up soon that gives further analysis of Oppenheim’s China wait calculation from May 2019.

About Suzanne (www.lucidtext.com)
Suzanne Lazicki is a business plan writer, EB-5 expert, and founder of Lucid Professional Writing. Contact me at suzanne@lucidtext.com (626) 660-4030.

31 Responses to Understanding the Visa Bulletin

  1. arunkumar says:

    Hi rightly said 8.4 is the minimum time for indian applicants they should also keep in mind the china applicants from may 2013 had cut off date in 2015 china applicants have advanced to 0ct 2014 in jun 2019 after consuming 50% unused visa from the quota of 10000 approximately more than 4500 visas each year,
    india wont get that benefit as there thousands of petitions china vietnam from 2014 to 2017 so it will be 8 plus years depending rejections and withdrawals that hardly makes any differance

  2. Suzanne, en route to Tokyo and just read this…once again, MASTERFUL, thank you so much.
    Even for an old-timer like me your analysis and explanations always illuminate so much about this convoluted visa number calculation system of ours. When they finally build that bronze statue of you, I hope they engrave your wise words at the base:

    “Today’s visa bulletin does not provide a visa time estimate for today’s investors”

    All hail Suzanne!

  3. suresh patel says:

    but for indian adjustment of status applicant i-485 is not apply even if i -526 approval come between 1 july2019 to 31 july 2019 but who is out side usa and in india they can apply forvisa filling is it poosible for indian who live in usa for adjustment of status when china and viatman retrogession occur it is possible for that country for next fiscal years ?

    • Arunkumar says:

      Once the cutoff date is announced only petitions before that date can apply for change of status or apply at the nvc

      • I agree with arunkumar. Starting in July 2019, Indians in the USA will need to look at http://www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo and the visa bulletin to know which priority dates can file I-485. The USCIS page will specify whether to follow the dates in Visa Bulletin Chart A or Chart B. For July, the USCIS page says to look at Chart A, which has the May 1, 2017 Final Action Date.

        Starting in July 2019, Indians abroad will need to look at the visa bulletin Chart B to know which priority dates can submit documents to NVC. In July 2019, Chart B says Indians with any priority date can submit documents. But Chart B will also likely get a specific date for India in future months, as is the case for China.

  4. DARSHAN says:


  5. nic says:

    If anything, the 8.4-year wait is underestimated, we do not think about other countries that are experiencing growth in EB-5 demand. Soon those countries will experience backlog just like China, Vietnam, and India, and that will mean significantly less visas for India to grab in the years to come.

    • Unlike for China, the annual visas available to India do not depend on EB-5 demand from other countries. India backlog calculations already just assume that India will only have the fixed minimum 7% available to any one country pursuant to the per-country cap. India is already not in the running for additional visas leftover from the rest of the world, because Chinese investors have priority for those visas due to much older priority dates in the China backlog.

  6. Evan says:

    Isn’t the “outside normal” time now at 44.5 months (October 2015)?

    • That’s the upper limit given in the recent processing times report, but I don’t give much weight to that number because it just reports on a few outliers. We know from an October 2018 report of pending petitions by priority date that only 1.5% of I-526 had been pending over 44 months at that time. But yes, I will update the language on the image to specify that I’m now showing the lower limit of the processing time range.

    • kishore says:

      44.5 is the new norm. They are busy searching through facebook, instagram and twitter for any information about applicants. Hopefully the current administration is gone by next october or else expecting 44.5 to become 89 months in a year.

  7. Thank you for helping spread the message to ignore the guy at the door.

  8. curious says:

    good info Suzanne, I want to ask where large numbers of applicants stand in this list who already completed visa interviews in India and they are under administrative process of 221 (g)? Are they included in 700 numbers of 2019?

  9. Kelly says:

    If Indian face more than 8 years waiting, they will also need to redeploy like Chinese. Before investing, were they aware of the future need of fund redeployment?

    It seems that last week S386 have made big progress. However it is interesting that in EB5 Chinese investors seems not happy about the porcess & other countries’ investors seems not worried at all.

    • Indian says:

      Other countries investors are worried about current form of H1044 and S386 bill. I request all investors to put your name on letter to Congress members.


      We need to request to Congress members to do minor fix in current bill to secure pending investors interest.

      • arunkumar says:

        i think they have excluded eb5 from the proposed legislation

        • Indian says:

          Both hr1044 and s386 apply to all eb categories, eb1 through eb5. Almost all existing investors with pending applications will get affected.

  10. Raj says:

    Thank you Suzanne. Always a thorough analysis.

  11. Raj says:

    Does DOS ever suggest to use chart B? what happens to some one with a future priority date residing in US (Indian Citizen) and if the chart B becomes current and instructed by DOS to use the chart, can the applicant file for 485? if so, is the work authorization (EAD) renewable till the applicants FAD is current?

  12. vijay patel says:

    still confused between chart A and B , if the Indian born applicant in USA which cart has to be followed

  13. Harry says:

    I am hoping that USCIS allows to file I-485 when my I-526 is approved ( Aug-2108 India).. I guess there is no harm in doing the only people who will be allowed, are already in US on some form of working visa..!! Hope the sense prevails..!!

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