The Department of State (DOS) has released the Visa Bulletin for March 2022. Interestingly, no changes have been made to the cutoff dates for EB-5 investors since the December 2021 Visa Bulletin. Since all direct investors, including those from China, are allowed to receive their two-year EB-5 visas once they are documentarily qualified, the popularity of direct EB-5 investment projects may increase even more.
The DOS had cleared the processing backlogs for Chinese direct EB-5 investors, and there is still no indication that the agency plans on bringing back cutoff dates. Therefore, the direct EB-5 investment model has received a notable boost. This investment type now seems more stable and reliable than regional center investment; it is also possible that future processing backlogs will not apply to I-526 petitions associated with direct EB-5 businesses. Should the regional center program be reauthorized (potentially in a March 11, 2022 appropriations bill), it is unclear if the DOS will make any changes.
The Final Action Dates and Dates for Filing
Countries experiencing backlogs in EB-5 visa petition processing can be subject to two kinds of cutoff dates: a final action or a date for filing. Chart A of each Visa Bulletin shows which countries are subject to final action dates; in this case, all direct EB-5 investors enjoy current status. This means that, as soon as their I-526 petitions are approved, direct investors can receive their conditional residency visas.
Regional center investors with pending I-526 petitions are in a very different situation: due to the regional center program’s expiration on June 30, 2021, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) no longer adjudicates I-526 applications associated with regional centers. The regional center row is thus marked as “Unauthorized.”
Chart B of the Visa Bulletins contains the date for filing—the date at which investors from backlogged countries can apply for their two-year visas. Even though all direct investors as marked as “Current”, regional center investors from China are still shown to have a date for filing of December 15, 2015.
The March 2022 Visa Bulletin has been published at a crucial time in the EB5 investment industry’s history. In only a few days or weeks, major changes could be made to EB-5 policies. Even though it is unclear what these changes will entail for the cutoff dates, it is very likely that direct EB-5 investment offerings will remain popular.