The direct EB-5 investment industry continues to enjoy a favorable period in 2022. The March 2022 Visa Bulletin, which has been released by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), shows that all direct investors, regardless of their nationality, can go through the EB-5 process and receive permanent resident status without being subject to cutoff dates. More specifically, this means that direct investors can apply for their conditional residency visas and receive them as soon as their Form I-526 has been approved. The DOS first cleared the backlogs for direct EB-5 investors in the December 2021 Visa Bulletin, and their decision remains unchanged.
Several countries, including India and Vietnam, have been subject to processing backlogs in the EB-5 program. However, before the December 2021 Visa Bulletin, only investors from China were subject to cutoff dates. Investors from this country will likely focus on the direct EB5 investment model for the time being.
Chart A, “Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases”
Chart A of the Visa Bulletins addresses the final action dates. Investors subject to final action dates must wait before receiving their conditional EB-5 visas. They will not be eligible to receive their visas until their I-526 petition dates (the date at which they filed Form I-526) catch up to the final action date. In the March 2022 Visa Bulletin, no direct investors are subject to final action dates—the non-regional center row is marked as “Current” for all countries.
On the other hand, regional center investors with pending I-526 petitions are unable to receive their visas—United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) no longer processes I-526 petitions from regional center investors due to the regional center program’s legislative expiration in June 2021. However, many EB-5 investment industry analysts predict that EB-5 reform, including a provision to reauthorize the regional center program for several more years, could be included in a March 11, 2022 appropriations bill. If so, it is unclear what will happen to the cutoff dates for direct investors.
Chart B, “Dates for Filing of Employment-Based Visa Applications”
According to Chart B, no nationalities are currently subject to a date for filing, which restricts when investors with approved I-526 petitions can apply for conditional residency visas. Interestingly, regional center investors from China still have a date for filing, which may indicate that, should be the program be reauthorized, the processing backlogs for regional center visa petitions would remain in place.
Significant changes may soon be in store for the EB-5 industry, but it is reassuring to see that the DOS continues to grant “Current” status to all direct investors. This may well become the most popular EB-5 investment option in the near future.