The devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, including in the United States, is not news to anyone. As the world moves into a second wave and Europe sees the re-emergence of lockdown measures, immigration may be the last thing on most people’s minds. But in fact, the COVID-19 pandemic may present the perfect opportunity to invest in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program for a permanent life in the United States.
Life returning to normal is a question of when, not if. Even in the absence of a vaccine, viruses naturally weaken over time, and populations naturally build up herd immunity, meaning a return to normalcy is inevitable. Though it is still, as of November 2020, unknown when the world can return to normal life, those investing in their future through an EB-5 investment have plenty of time to wait. The program’s long processing times for I-526 petitions are no secret, with investors often waiting up to two years. EB-5 investors from backlogged countries—as of November 2020, China and Vietnam—must generally wait even longer.
The long processing times are not a good thing—there is even legal precedent of judges deeming unreasonable the wait times United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) subjects EB-5 petitioners to. However, as they remain part and parcel of the EB-5 journey, advance planning is paramount, and prospective EB-5 investors can take advantage of the “lost time” of the pandemic to wait for USCIS to adjudicate their I-526 petition.
Another advantage the pandemic has bestowed upon those making EB5 investments is the flood of unused family-based visas reallocated to the employment-based visa programs. Each fiscal year, unused family-based visas from the previous year are rolled over to the employment-based programs, and the EB-5 program is entitled to 7.1% of these visas. The pandemic effectively halted all streams of immigration, including family-based immigration, which has resulted in the number of available EB-5 visas in FY2021 nearly doubling from the annual average. That means roughly twice as many investors as normal can receive their EB-5 visas in FY2021.
Some prospective investors may have doubts about the viability of initiating an EB-5 investment during the pandemic due to the suspended operations at U.S. consulates and embassies and travel restrictions that prohibit travelers from certain regions. These indeed constitute hinderances to an EB5 investment. However, anyone considering making an EB-5 investment should conduct careful due diligence on any potential project and EB-5 regional center, which can be time-consuming. Additionally, EB-5 investors must collect and submit complicated documentation proving the lawful sources of their EB-5 capital when filing their I-526 petition, which can account for another large chunk of time. By the time an investor is ready to submit their I-526 petition, life may already be well on its way to normalcy.
Potential Progress in the COVID-19 Fight
Since the onset of the pandemic in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been toiling away to keep Americans safe. According to the CDC, the government-initiated Operation Warp Speed, a public–private partnership intended to accelerate the development and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to the American people, has been operating since the beginning of the crisis, and while there remain no approved vaccines as of November 2, 2020, a CDC report dated October 14, 2020, indicates the possibility of a vaccine becoming available before 2020 ends.
A COVID-19 vaccine has been hailed by many as the key driver in the eventual return to normalcy. A vaccine could allow businesses to reopen with larger capacity, schools and universities to return to in-person classes, and the entertainment, travel, and hospitality industries—the most heavily affected industries—to resume their services. Given that the lucrative business opportunities and world-class education options the United States offers are among the top reasons foreign nationals opt to immigrate to the nation, the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine promises a return of the United States immigrants know and love—just in time for those who start the EB5 investment process now.