The Department of State (DOS) has published the Visa Bulletin for February 2022. The monthly Visa Bulletins provide U.S. visa applicants with valuable information on when they will be eligible to receive their visas. For the EB-5 industry, these reports indicate which investors are eligible to apply for or receive conditional residency status.
Chinese investors had been subject to a processing backlog since 2015 and were therefore subject to delays when applying for and receiving their visas. However, the December 2021 Visa Bulletin brought welcome news: all direct investors, including those from China, would no longer be subject to processing delays. As of the February 2022 Visa Bulletin, direct investors of all nationalities are still free from cutoff dates. They can go through the EB-5 investment process without the inconvenient delays caused by processing backlogs.
The DOS and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may be expediting direct EB-5 visa petitions due to the expiration of the regional center investment model. Before the June 30, 2021, suspension of the regional center program, most EB-5 investors had chosen regional center-sponsored projects to benefit from the more accessible job creation requirements. Now, I-526 petitions from regional center investors are no longer being processed, thus allowing USCIS to focus on adjudicating visa petitions from direct investors.
It is unclear what will happen to the cutoff dates for Chinese investors when the regional center program is reauthorized. Some industry members expect Congress to reauthorize regional center EB-5 investment in February 2022, but such predictions are conjectural.
This section of the Visa Bulletins shows when investors from backlogged countries can receive their conditional permanent resident status. All direct investors are currently granted current status, meaning that they do not have to wait to receive their visas once USCIS has approved their petitions. On the other hand, regional center investors are unauthorized.
Chart B contains the date for filing, which dictates when investors from backlogged countries can submit their applications for conditional permanent residency visas. As in Chart A, all direct investors, including Chinese nationals, have current status. In contrast, Chinese regional center investors are subject to a date for filing of December 15, 2015.
Foreign nationals interested in the EB-5 program may have an invaluable opportunity to make a direct EB-5 investment; Chinese investors will especially benefit from the absence of cutoff dates. Moreover, direct investments can currently be made at only $500,000.