The U.S. Department of State — Bureau of Consular Affairs has released May 2020’s Visa Bulletin, and much to the delight of Indian EB-5 investors, it reveals that the Indian final action date has leaped forward. Jumping ahead nine months, one of the largest jumps in EB-5 history, the Indian EB-5 final action date now stands at October 1, 2019, allowing countless Indian investors to obtain a U.S. visa sooner than expected.
Only three countries—China, India, and Vietnam—have backlogs, but the Indian EB-5 backlogs are projected to soon disappear. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on March 13, 2020, that India will likely have a current final action date by summer 2020, and so far, that prediction is on track to come true.
April’s Visa Bulletin presented an Indian final action date of January 1, 2019, which has jumped ahead by nine months in the May bulletin. Chinese and Vietnamese EB-5 investors have also seen their final action date inch forward, with China moving up by one and a half months and Vietnam by two.
The Dates for Filing chart for May 2020 only concerns Chinese EB-5 investors, as it historically always has. With U.S. consulates in China closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese investors cannot apply for EB-5 visas, which has stalled the progress of their date for filing. The date has not changed from the April Visa Bulletin.
USCIS’s Visa Availability Approach
Since March 31, 2020, USCIS has been using a new processing method for I-526 petitions. Different from the traditional first-in-first-out approach, under the new visa availability approach, USCIS determines when to process I-526 petitions based on the number of available EB-5 visas for the applicant’s country. There were originally fears that Indian and Vietnamese investors would be negatively impacted, but USCIS has decided to base its decisions on the dates for filing, meaning only Chinese EB-5 investors face a disadvantage.
USCIS Offices Closed until June 4
USCIS originally shut its doors to the public until May 4 to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, but with the pandemic continuing to rage on, it has extended the closures to June 4. Nonetheless, USCIS remains in operation, adjudicating EB-5 petitions because they do not require face-to-face contact. EB-5 investors living overseas are restricted by the worldwide closure of U.S. embassies and consulates, but those already living in the United States may benefit from the situation, receiving visas that would have otherwise gone to overseas applicants.