Every month, the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs releases a new Visa Bulletin for employment-based and family-based immigration to the United States. With demand for immigration to the United States far outpacing the supply of visas, country-based annual visa caps result in lengthy backlogs for nationals of certain countries, and the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is no exception. Since 2014, Chinese investors, who have, throughout the residency-by-investment program’s history, accounted for the majority of EB-5 investments, have faced a backlog. Vietnamese EB-5 investors have similarly been stuck in a backlog since 2015, and an Indian backlog also formed in 2019 before clearing up in July 2020.
After the tumultuous year of 2020, with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering throughout the world in 2021, EB5 investment stakeholders have faced mounting hardship and uncertainty. Although, for FY2021, the EB-5 program was granted almost double the typical number of visas, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has failed to issue a large number of EB-5 visas, with EB-5 final action dates in the Visa Bulletin barely budging. Movement in the Chinese final action date in particular was slow, with Charles Oppenheim, chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the Department of State, even stating the high probability of the Chinese final action date failing to move throughout the entire fiscal year of 2021.
That’s what the June 2021 Visa Bulletin is so surprising. Much to the EB5 investment world’s surprise, the Chinese final action date jumped ahead one month, landing at September 15, 2015. Finally, after months and months of inaction, Chinese EB-5 investment participants are seeing forward momentum. Perhaps, finally, USCIS is issuing the large numbers of EB-5 visas at their disposal for FY2021.
In Chart A, which displays the final action dates for June 2021, both China and Vietnam have advanced—hopefully a sign of good things to come for backlogged EB-5 investors. China’s final action date has advanced one month from August 15, 2015, to September 15, 2015. Vietnam’s, conversely, has moved ahead by two months, taking the date from February 15, 2018, to April 15, 2018. All other countries are current, including India, which has maintained its much-coveted “current” status for 11 months now. If this condition remains true in the July 2021 Visa Bulletin, it will mark one year since the south Asian country cleared up its backlog.
In Chart B, the news isn’t as good. While the Chinese final action date has finally advanced, there nonetheless remain countless Chinese nationals with active EB5 investments and approved I-526 petitions who are unable to file their application for an EB-5 visa. The Chinese date for filing has remained in place for more than a year, but with the advancement of the Chinese final action date comes hope for these EB-5 investment participants. If advancement in the Chinese final action date continues in future Visa Bulletins, advancement in the Chinese date for filing will be sure to follow—at least eventually.