The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program has long been a popular way for foreign investors to gain permanent residency in the United States for not only themselves but also their immediate family members. In fact, for some, the program has proven too popular—as of January 2021, EB-5 investment participants from China and Vietnam face lengthy backlogs that significantly delay the start of their new life in the United States.
Every fiscal year, a limited number of U.S. green cards are allocated for successful EB5 investment participants, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) further restricts visa issuance by country of origin. All countries are capped at around 700 EB-5 visas per year, regardless of their population or EB-5 investment demand. Thus, in high-population, high-demand countries like China and Vietnam, backlogs can easily build up that significantly lengthen an EB-5 investment participant’s wait time.
To shed light on the state of USCIS backlogs, the immigration body releases monthly Visa Bulletins that list which countries are “current” (i.e., not backlogged) and the final action dates for those that are not current. If the posted final action date is later than an EB5 investment participant’s priority date (i.e., the date on which USCIS received their I-526 petition), the investor is finally in line to receive their conditional permanent resident status.
China’s Final Action Date
In May 2015, the Chinese EB-5 backlog first sprung up and has raged on for more than five years with no signs of decreasing. In the early days of the backlog, the number of days between the final action date and the current Visa Bulletin month was 730 days, meaning the initial final action dates clocked in at May 2013. Though more than five years have passed since the emergence of the backlog, the final action date has advanced by only two—as of the January 2021 Visa Bulletin, the Chinese final action date is August 15, 2015. Advancing a mere 31 days between June and November 2020, the day gap now stands at 1,935, the highest it’s ever been. The Chinese final date has remained at a standstill since August 2020.
Vietnam’s Final Action Date
It was May 2018, three years after the emergence of the Chinese backlog, that EB5 investment participants from Vietnam joined their northern neighbors in USCIS’s Visa Bulletins. With a final action date in July 2014, Vietnam began its Visa Bulletin journey with a four-year backlog—a day gap of 1,379 days. Unlike the Chinese day gap, which has risen steadily since emergence, the Vietnamese day gap has remained fairly consistent at between 1,000 to 1,100 days, save for a sudden spike to 1,775 in mid-2019 and a subsequent drop back down to normal levels a couple months later. As of January 2021, the Vietnamese final action date stands at September 1, 2017, with a day gap of 1,187, having advanced 51 days between June and November 2020. For the most part, the Vietnamese day gap has remained remarkably lower than the Chinese one, though the Vietnamese backlog similarly slows no signs of letting up.