In March 2020, the United States temporarily shut down all U.S. embassies and consulates due to the emerge of the COVID-19 pandemic. These closures have significantly delayed many foreign investors’ journeys in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Investors already residing in the United States have still been able to apply for EB-5 visas by filing I-485 petitions. However, the closures have made it impossible for those residing abroad to apply for their visas and continue their EB-5 process.
Luckily for many EB-5 investors living abroad, the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs recently announced the phased resumption of routine visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates. This is great news for foreign-based EB-5 investors who have been waiting to file their EB-5 applications and continue their immigration process. However, not all U.S. embassies and consulates are opening at the same time. Each embassy and consulate will determine its own opening based on the local situation, meaning some investors may wait longer than others to resume their EB-5 process.
Investors should check the website of the individual embassy or consulate for details on its reopening and resumption of services. The Department of State’s website will also post updates regarding when various consulates will resume specific visa services.
How EB-5 Investors May Be Affected
On June 22, 2020, President Trump extended the temporary immigration ban to the end of 2020. The law suspends many forms of immigration, including many forms of employment-based immigration. However, EB-5 investors are exempt from this immigration ban. Because most forms of immigration are banned, U.S. embassies and consulates should have more capacity for EB-5 requests, possibly speeding up the process for EB-5 investors.
The difficulties the EB-5 program has faced throughout 2020 have also created some unique benefits for present EB-5 investors. Due to the increased processing times and U.S. embassy closures, there have been fewer I-526 petitions filed, creating shorter wait times for the investors who do apply to the EB-5 program. Also, because COVID-19 has greatly affected major U.S. cities like Los Angeles and New York City, there may be more areas in these cities that qualify as targeted employment areas (TEAs) in 2021.
All in all, now may be an opportune time for foreign investors to participate in the EB-5 program. During the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EB-5 program could provide the jumpstart that the U.S. economy needs. The capital that EB-5 investors have to offer could help create jobs and assist in the recovery of the U.S. economy.