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Questions & Answers: Pending Employment-Based Form I-485 Inventory

Q: Why is the wait so long for my employment-based green card?

A: A visa must be available before a person can obtain an employment-based green card.  Because more people want a green card than there are visas available, not everyone who wants a green card can get one immediately.  Therefore, some people have to wait in line until a visa is available.  The U.S. Department of State (DOS) gives out 140,000 employment-based visas each year.  About 85% of those visas go to people seeking a green card in the United States, while about 15% go to people seeking to immigrate from abroad.  Currently, about 234,000 people have employment-based adjustment of status (green card) applications pending in the United States and are waiting to get a visa.   How long you wait for a visa depends on the supply and demand for your particular preference category, your priority date, and the country your visa will be charged to, usually your country of birth.

Q: How can I determine my place in line based on my priority date?

A: Your preference category, priority date, and country of origin determine your place in line for a visa.  The earlier your priority date is, the closer you are to the front of the line.  To better assist you in knowing your place in line, we are posting a report of our total pending inventory of applications for employment-based green cards (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) for those seeking to adjust status in the United States.  See the “Pending Employment-Based Form I-485 Report” link to the right.  We are also posting five other reports by country of chargeability (China, India, Mexico, Philippines, and All Other Chargeability) (see the links to the right).

The “Pending Employment-Based Form I-485 Report,” displays the total number of pending adjustment of status applications, per preference classification. The report shows how many pending adjustment of status (green card) applications in each preference classification have priority dates in a given month and year.  You can use this chart to determine how many applicants in your preference classification have priority dates in the same month and year as your own.  Also, you can determine how many applicants in your preference classification are ahead of you in line for a visa number by adding together the number of cases with an earlier priority date than your own.

The All Other Chargeability report shows how many applicants from countries other than China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines have priority dates in a given month and year.  The report is broken down into separate charts for each preference classification.  If you are from a country other than China, India, Mexico, or the Philippines, you can use this chart to determine how many applicants for adjustment of status in the same preference classification have a priority date in the same month and year as your own.  This chart also lets you know how many applicants in the same preference classification have earlier priority dates.

Because of historically higher demand for visas from China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines, each of those countries has its own separate report.  As published in the DOS Visa Bulletin, applicants from those countries will need to have earlier priority dates than like applicants from other countries to get a visa in any given month.  If you are from China, India, Mexico, or the Philippines, you may want to use the report for your particular country.  Your country report will show you how many applicants from the same country and preference classification have a priority date in the same month and year as your own.  The report will also let you know how many applicants from the same country and preference classification have earlier priority dates. 

Q: Which report should I use, the Pending Employment-Based Form I-485 Report or the country-specific reports?

A: All applicants for an employment-based green card may use the pending Form I-485 report to determine their place in line for a visa.  Because certain countries experience higher demand than others, applicants in these “oversubscribed” countries may move forward in line more slowly than applicants in countries experiencing less demand.  In other words, in order to obtain a visa, applicants in oversubscribed countries may need to have earlier priority dates than applicants in countries experiencing less demand.  Applicants in oversubscribed countries may therefore want to also refer to the report for their specific country of chargeability to determine where they stand in line with other applicants from that country.  

Q: What information do I need to have before using the pending Form I-485 inventory reports?

A: You need to know your priority date and your preference category to use the pending Form I-485 inventory reports.  For more information on priority dates and preference categories, see the “Visa Availability & Priority Dates” and “Green Card Eligibility” links to the right.

Q: How do I read the pending I-485 inventory reports?

A: First, select the link to the report you want to view. The report will appear and you will see a series of charts, one for each preference category.  You will see that each chart has different numbers for each month and year.   These numbers show how many green card applicants have priority dates in that month and year.  To figure out how many applicants have earlier priority dates, add all the numbers from all the cells that correspond to earlier months. 

Q:  Why were there pending cases listed with priority dates after August 2007 when the Visa  Bulletin priority dates was never beyond August 2007? 

A:  We have reviewed the source data for the inventory and have determined that a number of errors contributed to the appearance of cases with a 2008 or 2009 priority date in countries and preferences for which the priority date has not advanced beyond 2007 in the DOS Visa Bulletin.  First, several of these cases had more than one approved I-140, and, rather than list the case by the earlier priority date, we erroneously listed the case by the later priority date.  Several more cases were cross-chargeable to a non-retrogressed country but were listed under the retrogressed country.  Finally, a handful of cases involved simple data-entry errors.

Q: Why are there pending cases with very early priority dates?

A: Please keep in mind that this report is listed by priority dates and not file dates or receipt  dates. These cases were filed within the past two or three years even though their priority dates were current for a while. USCIS is still processing and vetting these cases and will  make final adjudications once all checks have cleared.

Q: What does this pending inventory report contain?

A: Although this pending inventory report is intended to provide information about demand for an immigrant visa and give potential employment-based immigrants an idea of where they stand in line for a visa, it does not include all potential employment-based immigrants. This report contains principal and dependent employment-based I-485s pending at USCIS Service Centers and Field Offices. It does not include cases pending consular processing at overseas posts. It also does not include individuals and their dependents with a pending or approved I-140 petition who have not yet filed an I-485 application or begun consular processing. Please note, therefore, that there are likely many individuals with an earlier priority date than your own who do not currently appear on the inventory, either because they are awaiting consular processing or because they have not filed an I-485.

Q: Can you tell me when I will get a visa?

A: Unfortunately, we cannot determine how long it will take for you to get a visa.  However, we hope that by showing applicants with a pending Form I-485 where they stand in line to get a visa, you will get a better sense of how long it may take.  We intend to update the data in these reports quarterly.  By comparing newer versions of the reports with older ones, you may see that the number of applicants ahead of you has gotten smaller, and you may be able to tell how much shorter the line has become.  We hope this will give you an even better sense of how long it may take for you to get a visa. 

Q: Can you provide me an example of how to use the pending Form I-485 inventory charts?

A: Assume your priority date is in January 2007, your petition was approved for third preference, and you are from China.  Using the Sample “Pending Employment-Based Form I-485 Report,” below you will see on the third preference chart that there are 2,618 applicants with a priority date in the same month and year as your priority date. 

If you want to find out how many third-preference green card applicants have an earlier priority date than yours, you will need to add all the numbers starting with the number at the beginning of the table, January 1997, and ending with the number immediately before the month and year of your own priority date, December 2006.  You will see that there are 131,341 third-preference applicants who have a priority date earlier than yours.  See the chart below.

Sample “Pending Employment-Based Form I-485 Report"

3rd Preference

 

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Grand Total

January

4

121

10

11

27

541

1,280

1,601

1,726

2,948

2,618

100

9

10,996

February

6

6

4

12

75

453

1,287

1,658

1,625

2,971

2,402

46

4

10,549

March

8

2

12

20

255

624

1,563

2,108

6,805

3,888

2,455

85

30

17,855

April

17

12

11

18

6,170

884

1,753

2,074

87

2,956

2,358

72

7

16,419

May

15

13

4

27

171

891

1,721

1,700

295

3,222

2,067

56

0

10,182

June

3

1

4

15

89

841

1,647

1,996

868

3,215

1,877

84

4

10,644

July

9

2

13

22

101

961

1,666

1,914

1,630

3,168

3,808

30

1

13,325

August

7

2

6

17

132

1,079

1,622

2,032

2,531

3,397

909

21

0

11,755

September

23

6

9

10

135

1,185

1,675

2,021

2,685

3,182

266

10

0

11,207

October

9

11

11

17

216

1,177

2,032

2,141

2,966

3,683

320

7

0

12,590

November

18

7

21

11

405

1,220

1,793

2,283

3,127

3,069

88

15

0

12,057

December

18

3

5

27

468

1,399

2,042

2,872

3,684

2,993

127

14

0

13,652

Grand Total

137

186

110

207

8,244

11,255

20,081

24,400

28,029

38,692

19,295

540

55

151,231

 

Q: How do I know how many applicants from my country have an earlier priority date than mine?

A: Assume your priority date is in June 2005, your petition was approved for third preference, and you are from India.  Using the Sample “I-485 Inventory for Individuals Born in India Report” below, you will see that there are 175 green card applicants from India with a priority date in June 2005.

To find out how many applicants born in India have an earlier priority date than yours, add all the numbers starting at January 1997 and ending at May 2005. You will see that there are 42,796 third-preference applicants from India with a priority date earlier than yours.  See the chart below.

Sample I-485 Inventory for Individuals Born in India Report

3rd Preference

 

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Grand Total

January

0

9

6

2

8

426

906

959

816

712

704

16

4

4,568

February

0

2

0

2

13

349

873

985

890

760

650

8

0

4,532

March

0

0

2

5

19

498

990

1,238

3,677

984

649

14

0

8,076

April

0

4

0

0

452

716

1,106

1,262

46

810

631

8

0

5,035

May

0

2

0

7

49

688

1,115

1,089

92

867

599

6

0

4,514

June

0

1

3

5

44

614

1,011

1,172

175

879

521

12

1

4,438

July

0

0

3

6

46

725

987

1,187

299

940

893

2

0

5,088

August

1

1

0

5

82

805

1,014

1,302

468

906

245

10

0

4,839

September

0

2

3

3

66

814

974

1,115

544

900

74

2

0

4,497

October

0

1

1

5

143

829

1,216

1,326

520

1,059

91

3

0

5,194

November

0

1

0

7

310

874

1,089

1,425

714

1,203

27

5

0

5,655

December

0

2

1

3

398

975

1,222

1,674

818

1,047

29

2

0

6,171

Grand Total

1

25

19

50

1,630

8,313

12,503

14,734

9,059

11,067

5,113

88

5

62,607

 

Last Reviewed/Updated: 07/12/2011