The number of visas issued at U.S. consulates declined for the second consecutive year, according to statistics released by the State Department.

Key points:

  • The number of nonimmigrant visas, which include temporary workers, students, visitors and others, fell to 9.03 million in fiscal 2018 from 9.68 million in 2017—a 6.7% decline. This follows a 6.7% decline the previous year.
  • Immigrant visa issuance fell 4.6% overall, marked by a 7% decline in immediate-relative immigrant visas while the number of employment-based immigrant visas totaled 27,345, the highest in five years and a 14.8% increase from 2017.
  • Statistics for the past five fiscal years show that immigrant visas were increasing sharply through fiscal year 2016, but declined the past two years, while nonimmigrant visas have declined for the past three fiscal years.
  • President Donald Trump signed the Buy American and Hire American executive order in April 2017 directing federal agencies to tighten eligibility for visas. The administration also advocates moving toward a green card system that prioritizes foreign nationals with skills, education and English language ability and away from family-based immigration.

The number of visas issued at U.S. posts abroad for the past five fiscal years are shown below, along with percentage changes from previous years.

Visa Type 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Total Nonimmigrant Visas 9,932,480



(up 9.6%)

10,381,491 (down 4.7%) 9,681,913

(down 6.7%)


(down 6.7%)

Immigrant Visas          
   -Immediate Relatives 185,130 243,432 315,352 254,430 236,526
   -Employment-based 21,365



(up 1.2%)


(up 15.9%)


(down 4.9%)


(up 14.8%)

   -Family-sponsored 197,760 208,840 215,498 212,155 211,641
   -Diversity visas 51,018 48,097 45,664 49,067 48,578
   -Special Immigrants, Vietnam Amerasians       12,097     9,481   16,182   20,070     9,467
Total Immigrant Visas 467,370 531,463

(up 13.7%)


(up 16.2%)


(down 9.4%)


(down 4.6%)

BAL Analysis: Although the number of employment-based immigrant visas issued increased, about 85% of employment-based cases obtain status through adjustment of status in the U.S., not visa processing, so this statistic does not necessarily reflect an increase in the total number of employment-based immigration cases approved.  The significant decrease in family-based immigrant visa issuance is due in part to increased use of the public charge ineligibility, which primarily affects family-based immigration.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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