United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released the September 2021 Visa Bulletin. This monthly publication shows which investors are eligible to apply for and receive an EB-5 visa. Since USCIS is known for its notoriously slow processing times and each country is allotted only a limited number of EB-5 visas, the Visa Bulletins often reflect significant backlogs. However, USCIS’s processing efficiency has shown moderate signs of improvement in recent months. For instance, Vietnam, which had experienced a backlog since 2018, finally achieved “Current” status in the August 2021 Visa Bulletin.
Chart A, “Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases”
Chart A of the Visa Bulletin indicates that the final action date for Chinese investors has moved forward one week, from November 15, 2015, to November 22 of that year. Even though this is a small improvement when compared to the Vietnamese final action date’s huge leaps in the July and August Visa Bulletins, any advancement for China is always good news—until the June 2021 bulletin, China’s final action date had not budged for over a year.
This news means that Chinese foreign nationals who made an EB-5 investment, successfully filed Form I-526 on or before November 22, 2015, and applied for an EB-5 visa are now eligible to receive conditional permanent resident status. Interestingly, the Chinese final action date also advanced by one week in the August 2021 Visa Bulletin. If this trend continues, it will take several years before the Chinese EB-5 backlog is cleared.
Foreign nationals planning an EB-5 investment should note that the regional center values in Chart A are marked as “U” (unauthorized) because the regional center program was suspended on June 30, 2021. Congress failed to pass the legislation necessary to reauthorize regional center projects, but EB-5 investment stakeholders are confident that the program will be revalidated in the coming months.
Chart B, “Dates for Filing of Employment-Based Visa Applications”
Unlike Chart A, Chart B does not contain much good news for the EB-5 investment industry. China’s date for filing remains the same: December 15, 2015. Disappointingly, this date has remained stagnant for over 12 months. Even though improvements in the final action date should ostensibly push forward the date for filing, this has not been the case for China. As a result, Chinese investors who filed Form I-526 after December 15, 2015, are not allowed to submit their visa petitions to the National Visa Center (NVC).
Even though USCIS backlogs continue to plague the EB-5 investment industry, the September Visa Bulletin reflects some progress toward clearing the Chinese backlog. Still, Chinese foreign nationals who have made an EB5 investment must exercise extraordinary patience—they may have to wait for several years before applying for their well-deserved visas. Since the EB-5 industry is in a constant state of flux, interested foreign nationals should work with experienced consultants such as EB5AN, who can help them identify the most reliable and convenient EB-5 projects.