The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program offers foreign nationals a practical and lawful way to relocate to the United States: by making an EB-5 investment compliant with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations, foreign nationals can apply for permanent resident status.
Despite the program’s many benefits for the U.S. economy, the EB-5 industry has been the object of criticism due to the frequent backlogs and slow processing times associated with EB-5 visa applications. Due to these backlogs, certain countries with an especially high volume of EB-5 investors have been subject to final action dates. This means that investors from such countries cannot obtain their EB-5 visas until the final action date catches up with their I-526 priority date (the date on which USCIS receives their Form I-526).
This process may take several years. However, the EB5 investment community is celebrating the news reported in the August 2021 Visa Bulletin—Vietnam’s EB-5 backlog has finally been cleared, and all investors with an approved I-526 petition can now apply for and obtain conditional permanent resident status. Vietnamese EB-5 investment visas had been backlogged since 2018, so this news is especially welcome.
August 2021 Visa Bulletin, Chart A
By far the most noteworthy feature of Chart A is that Vietnam has achieved “C” status. “C” stands for “current,” so Vietnamese investors are no longer subject to a final action date. They are now eligible to receive their coveted green cards and later obtain permanent resident status. Previously, the Vietnamese backlog had jumped forward two years in the July 2021 Visa Bulletin. In light of these developments, it seems that USCIS may finally be taking steps to streamline EB-5 visa adjudications.
Chart A also holds good news for Chinese EB-5 investors—the final action date for China has moved forward to November 15, 2015. Even though this final action date is just one week further than the previous date of November 8, 2015, any progress toward clearing the Chinese EB-5 investment backlog is a step in the right direction. China has experienced the largest backlog of EB-5 visa applications, and its final action date remained stagnant for almost 12 months before the June 2021 Visa Bulletin.
August 2021 Visa Bulletin, Chart B
The information presented in Chart B is not nearly as encouraging. This section of the Visa Bulletin displays China’s date for filing of December 15, 2015, which has remained unchanged for about 18 months. Due to the particularly high number of EB-5 visa petitions from China, USCIS requires Chinese investors to refrain from submitting their visa applications until the date for filing is later than their I-526 priority date. As a result, Chinese foreign nationals who have made an EB5 investment may have to wait years until they can apply for their visas. Clearly, USCIS still has much to do to clear up the Chinese EB-5 backlog.
With the above news and the recent deauthorizations of the EB-5 Modernization Rule and the regional center program, 2021 has been a pivotal year for the ever-changing EB-5 investment industry. Hopefully, the September 2021 Visa Bulletin will reflect further progress toward clearing up the Chinese backlog.