The monthly Visa Bulletins published by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) contain valuable information for EB-5 investors from countries that are experiencing EB-5 processing backlogs. Each Visa Bulletin shows when EB-5 investors from backlogged countries can receive conditional permanent resident status.
When an EB-5 investor submits Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor, they are given a priority date—that is, the date on which USCIS received the petition. EB-5 investors from backlogged countries are subject to a final action date, which gradually moves forward. Investors can receive their conditional U.S. green cards only after the final action date for their country catches up with their I-526 priority date. This policy means that EB-5 investors who filed their I-526 petitions after their country’s final action date cannot begin their conditional residency.
In mid-2021, the Visa Bulletins reflected many positive trends in USCIS visa petition processing. Even though the agency is known for its remarkably long adjudication periods for EB-5 visa petitions, Vietnam’s EB-5 backlog was cleared in the August 2021 Visa Bulletin, leaving China as the only country with an EB-5 backlog. Additionally, China’s final action date made steady progress until the September 2021 Visa Bulletin.
Unfortunately, the November 2021 Visa Bulletin does not reflect any further progress in USCIS’s adjudication times for Chinese EB5 investment petitions.
Chart A of the November 2021 Visa Bulletin indicates that the final action date for China remains at November 22, 2015. As mentioned previously, USCIS may have allocated more internal resources toward processing Chinese visa petitions in mid-2021, but this positive trend seems to have ended. Now, only EB-5 investors who have submitted their I-526 petitions on or before November 22, 2015, can receive conditional permanent residency. This significantly delayed final action date—which is almost six years behind—complicates the EB-5 investment process for Chinese nationals.
The row for regional center EB-5 investment is marked as unauthorized; the regional center component of the EB-5 program expired on June 30, 2021. Many EB-5 investment stakeholders hope that the program will be reauthorized shortly, but it is unclear when this will take place.
Chart B of the November 2021 Visa Bulletin contains the date for filing, which dictates when Chinese EB-5 investors can submit their conditional visa applications. The date for filing has remained at December 15, 2015, for more than 12 months. Therefore, all Chinese EB-5 investors with I-526 priority dates later than December 15, 2015, cannot even apply for their conditional visas.
Evidently, the EB-5 investment industry needs USCIS to improve its processing capabilities, especially for Chinese EB-5 petitions. Hopefully, the agency will take stronger measures to address the existing backlogs.