December 2020 Visa Bulletin: Q1 FY2021 to Close Relatively Unchanged

The State Department experienced significant publishing delays with the November 2020 Visa Bulletin but December’s bulletin, while still delayed, has come out more quickly. The industry is hopeful this indicates a concerted effort to play catch-up. In the meantime, arguably the biggest highlight of fiscal 2021 for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program thus far has been that most countries have maintained their current final action status. Still, the December 2020 Visa Bulletin didn’t bring news as promising as the EB-5 community had anticipated.

Nearly Zero Movement in Chart A’s Final Action Dates

Chart A’s Final Action Dates

The end of FY2020 brought on a flurry of chatter regarding the influx of visas following an unimaginable year. Unfortunately, the December 2020 Visa Bulletin shows no sign of the marked advances EB-5 professionals hoped would come. Chinese investors in the EB-5 program saw zero movement in final action dates for the country (the date remains August 15, 2015). And EB-5 investment participants from Vietnam will merely inch forward in line as their final action date advances by just two weeks (September 1, 2017).

Dates for Filing in Chart B Haven’t Moved Either

Chart B Haven’t Moved Either

Sure enough, Chinese investors have not seen any additional forward momentum on their application filing dates, as Chart B in the visa bulletin indicates a repeat date stamp (15DEC15). Affected investors are those foreign nationals participating in an EB5 investment who are allowed to submit their green card applications with the National Visa Center (NVC). Interested parties typically include those EB-5 investors who apply outside of U.S borders, and China hasn’t seen a shift from mid-December 2015 in months.

The Fate of the EB-5 Regional Center Hangs in the Balance

The last extension for the EB-5 Regional Center Program is set to expire on December 11, 2020. In order to avoid it, Congress needs to reauthorize the program, or at least pass a temporary measure on expenditures. Otherwise, immigration visas through the regional program* will no longer be available as of midnight on that date. Those EB-5 investors already entrenched in the program would need to be admitted into the U.S. before the clock strikes 12. Should the program be saved, however, cut-off dates will likely mirror current bulletin data across the board.

Ultimately, Q1 of the new fiscal year seems to be closing without the outpour of extra visas expected…without an influx of petitions processed…and now maybe without the incentive of working through a regional center on an EB-5 investment for half the start-up capital. It has been a rough year for the industry as a whole. Perhaps the folks at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will surprise us all and launch refreshed and in full-force into the brand new calendar year. We certainly hope so!

*Note: EB5 investment participants who are not working through a regional center will not be impacted directly by an expiration of the regional program.