The Department of State (DOS) has released the January 2022 Visa Bulletin. Following a historic removal of the cutoff dates for all direct EB-5 investors in the December 2021 Visa Bulletin, the January 2022 bulletin essentially remains the same: once their I-526 petitions have been approved, direct investors are free to apply for and receive their conditional residency EB-5 visas. Chinese EB-5 investors, the only nationality that had been subject to cutoff dates as of the November 2021 Visa Bulletin, are no doubt relieved by these developments. Interest in the EB5 investment program may surge as a result.
Contrary to the expectations of many members of the EB-5 investment industry, Congress did not reauthorize the EB-5 Regional Center Program in December 2021 as part of an appropriations bill. Therefore, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is no longer processing I-526 petitions from regional center EB-5 investors, who currently cannot receive their conditional residency visas.
Chart A, “Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases”
In each Visa Bulletin, Chart A contains the final action dates for backlogged countries. EB-5 investors from backlogged countries must wait until their I-526 priority date—that is, the date on which their I-526 petitions were filed—catches up to the final action date before receiving their conditional EB-5 visas. In the January 2022 Bulletin, all direct (non-regional center) investors possess “C” (current) status and can obtain their visas as soon as these are available.
In contrast, the dates for regional center investors are marked as “U” (unauthorized) due to the program’s expiration in June 2021. However, the Visa Bulletin notes that, should the regional center program be reauthorized in January 2022, the final action date for regional center investors will be November 22, 2015.
Chart B, “Dates for Filing of Employment-Based Visa Applications”
Chart B contains the date for filing, which dictates when EB-5 investors from oversubscribed countries can apply for their EB-5 visas. Chinese regional center investors are still subject to a December 15, 2015, date for filing. In contrast, direct investors are no longer subject to a date for filing.
Direct EB-5 Investment is on the Rise
The removal of the cutoff dates for all direct investors is yet another reason why the direct EB-5 investment model has gained renewed popularity in the second half of 2021. It is now the sole EB-5 investment option for foreign nationals, and many members of the EB-5 industry have come to realize that direct EB-5 projects offer several unique benefits.