As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second wave, triggering a resurgence of lockdowns across Europe, immigration to the United States may be the last thing foreign investors are considering. But while the pandemic continues to devastate the global economy, the unique circumstances of COVID-19 present the optimal opportunity to invest in a permanent life in the United States through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
Use “Lost Time” to Wait for I-526 Adjudication
The world will inevitably return to normal. Viruses weaken and communities amass herd immunity over time, and the advent of a revolutionary vaccine will dramatically facilitate the process. While the world awaits a return to normalcy, those seeking to improve their lives through U.S. permanent resident status can turn this “lost time” to their advantage by making an EB5 investment and preparing their I-526 petition for submission to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The EB-5 program’s long processing times for I-526 petitions mean investors from backlogged countries (China and Vietnam, as of November 2020) often wait up to two years, sometimes longer, for adjudication. Although USCIS’s extensive processing times for EB-5 petitioners have been deemed unreasonable by judicial precedent, they are still unavoidable. Investors who align their wait time for I-526 adjudication with the global “wait time” of COVID-19 can ensure their EB-5 investment application will be further along once global restrictions are lifted.
Surge in Available EB-5 Visas
The number of EB-5 visas available for fiscal year 2021 is almost twice the annual average because of COVID-19.
Every fiscal year, unclaimed family-based visas are divided among the various employment-based visa programs, and the EB-5 investment program is entitled to 7.1% of these family-based visas. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has essentially halted all forms of immigration, including family-based visas, the number of EB-5 visas available in FY 2021 for investors to claim has nearly doubled.
Many operations at U.S. embassies and consulates have been suspended due to the pandemic, and the multitude of travel restrictions continue to change worldwide. While these circumstances create some obstacles, they should not sow doubts about the EB-5 process. EB5 investments require complicated, time-consuming documentation from investors when filing their I-526 petition, particularly in regard to the lawful source-of-funds requirement. Properly exploring the offerings of a potential project and EB-5 regional center should similarly claim a large chunk of time. However, with the current record-breaking pace towards a potential vaccine, the world may be on its way back to “normal” by the time an investor is ready to submit their I-526 petition, if they begin their EB-5 journey now.
New Hope in the Fight Against COVID-19
At the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. government initiated Operation Warp Speed, a partnership between the public and private sectors to fast-track the design and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a promising report dated October 14, 2020, suggesting that a potential vaccine may be ready to the public by the end of 2020. While, as of November 5, 2020, the government has yet to announce an approved vaccine, the CDC’s official report gives reason to hope for a relatively swift end to the current crisis.
The business and education opportunities offered by a life in the United States, unparalleled in the world, are some of the top reasons foreign nationals opt to immigrate to the country. With a CDC-approved vaccine, travel restrictions could be lifted, embassies could resume regular operations, businesses could return to full capacity, schools and universities could allow in-person learning, and the most heavily affected industries—travel, hospitality, entertainment—could soon be thriving once again.
With a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, immigrants the world over dreaming of a full and prosperous life in the United States for themselves and their families might be able to realize this dream once the world returns to normal if they start their EB-5 investment process today.