While the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is open to investors from all over the world, not everyone experiences the same EB-5 journey. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only allocates approximately 10,000 visas to the EB-5 program per fiscal year, and no country is supposed to get more than 700, meaning investors from high-demand EB-5 countries face a backlog and a delayed EB-5 visa process.
When an EB-5 investor submits an I-526 petition, USCIS sends them a priority date—the date USCIS received the petition. Until March 2020, USCIS used priority dates to assign petitions for adjudication, but now, the organization uses a visa availability approach to adjudicate I-526 petitions. Now, priority dates are only relevant to EB-5 investors whose countries are backlogged.
As of May 2020, only three countries are subject to a backlog: China, India, and Vietnam. While applicants from all other countries are free to immediately apply for and receive their EB-5 visa as soon as they receive approval on their I-526 petition, Chinese, Indian, and Vietnamese EB-5 investors must wait until their priority date is on or before the final action date for their country. The final action dates are presented in the monthly Visa Bulletins the U.S. Department of State releases on its website.
EB-5 investors from countries that are not backlogged do not need to pay attention to the Visa Bulletins, as their final action date is “current.” However, investors from countries such as South Korea and Brazil, which have been seeing more and more investors in recent years, should keep an eye on the situation, in case their country also builds up a backlog. Chinese and Vietnamese EB-5 investors will likely need to continuously consult the final action dates for the foreseeable future, although a recent drop in EB-5 demand in India means India’s final action date could become current by summer 2020.
Chart A vs Chart B
What makes the Visa Bulletin for EB-5 investors a little more complicated is that it is comprised of two different charts. Most EB-5 investors need only concern themselves with Chart A, which displays the final action dates. The final action date refers to the date by which an EB-5 visa is available for an investor, so if USCIS has received an EB-5 visa application from the investor and has all the necessary information it needs to make an adjudication, the investor may receive his or her conditional permanent resident status once his or her priority date is on or before the final action date. As of May 2020, Chinese, Indian, and Vietnamese EB-5 investors must monitor Chart A.
Chart B is only relevant to investors from China. It presents the dates for filing, which refer to the date from which an overseas EB-5 investor can submit a visa application to the National Visa Center (NVC), even though a visa is not yet available for the applicant. Whereas Indian and Vietnamese EB-5 investors may apply for their visa immediately, even though they are subject to considerable wait times before receiving a visa, Chinese investors may have to wait years just to submit their EB-5 visa application.