The February 2021 Visa Bulletin is out, and it’s another bout of bad news for most Chinese and Vietnamese nationals pursuing an EB-5 investment. 2021 is shaping up to be an even worse year than 2020, with travel restrictions and lockdowns increasing even as vaccines are rolled out, and for EB-5 investors, there is no light at the end of the tunnel of their obstacle-riddled EB5 investment path. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has the option to up productivity and EB-5 visa processing, considering the massive surge in visas earmarked to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program in FY2021, but nearly halfway through the fiscal year, the immigration agency has taken no action to issue these EB-5 visas en masse and reduce the ever-growing backlogs. At the current rate, the EB-5 program risks losing these visas, passing up a valuable opportunity to reward countless EB-5 investment participants with faster rights to U.S. conditional permanent residency.
In December 2020, EB-5 investment stakeholders and the wider world looked forward with hope as COVID-19 vaccines began to be administered around the globe. January 2021 constituted a rude awakening, with inefficient vaccine rollouts and the emergence of new COVID-19 strains triggering stronger border restrictions and lockdown measures in various countries. EB-5 investors should gear up for the possibility of 2020 2.0, but at the same time, in the unpredictable landscape COVID-19 engenders, a lot could happen in the eight remaining months of FY2021. One possibility—though EB-5 industry leaders are working hard to prevent it—is the termination of the EB-5 Regional Center Program under the backdrop of insufficient integrity measures, which would magnify the woes of EB-5 investors dramatically.
For the eighth month in a row since July 2020, Indian EB-5 investment participants need not fret about the Visa Bulletin, as the Indian final action date remains current. Investors from China and Vietnam are not so fortunate, however. Vietnamese foreign nationals with active EB-5 investments are only eligible to receive their EB-5 visa if their priority date is earlier than October 1, 2017, with the final action date moving ahead only two weeks from the January 2021 bulletin. The situation is even worse for Chinese investors: at August 15, 2015, the Chinese final action date has failed to move ahead by even a week since August 2020.
In terms of the dates for filing, China remains the only country subject to wait times just to file their application for an EB-5 visa. At December 15, 2015, the date for filing lies more than five years in the past, constituting a major obstacle for any Chinese national seeking a better life in the United States through an EB-5 investment. The Chinese date for filing has stayed the same since the March 2020 Visa Bulletin, so as of the February 2021 bulletin, it has stood still for 11 months. Will the release of the March 2021 Visa Bulletin mark a year of non-movement for the Chinese date for filing? Only time will tell, but the outlook as of late January 2021 is unfavorable.