In light of extended EB-5 visa processing times and availability constraints, a foremost concern for EB-5 investors is avoiding delays in the immigration process. While all EB-5 investors can expect the immigration process to take several years, many investors are often subject to excessively long wait times before receiving U.S. visas. Since the minimum investment amount for EB-5 investors is substantial—$800,000—and investors are not guaranteed to receive a timely return of their capital or immigrate successfully, EB-5 visa applicants deserve reasonable processing times. Moreover, once their initial Form I-526E applications are approved, EB-5 investors should be able to receive their U.S. visas and relocate. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Visa Allocation Delays for EB-5 Investors
Many EB-5 investors have to wait for unreasonably long periods before immigrating to the United States. Not only is United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) known for its slow adjudication speeds, but EB-5 investors also face limited visa availability. A limited number of EB-5 visas is made available each year, and investors from each participating country can receive no more than 7% of the total visa supply. This regulation often leaves countries with a high demand for EB-5 immigration with years-long backlogs of visa applications.
When a country has a particularly high volume of EB-5 investors and demand exceeds supply, it is considered to be in visa retrogression. The Department of State (DOS) may assign cutoff dates to investors whose nationalities are experiencing visa retrogression. In essence, cutoff dates create longer wait times before EB-5 investors can apply for their visas to the National Visa Center (NVC) and receive them following approval of the I-526E petition.
As a result of cutoff dates, investors from countries with a high volume of EB-5 visa applicants often have to wait for many years before receiving their U.S. visas. In addition to inconveniencing investors, these excessive delays are also detrimental to the EB-5 program’s popularity.
As of August 2022, the only country experiencing EB-5 visa retrogression is China, though other-high demand nationalities may also develop a backlog in the near future.
After Months of Inactivity, Cutoff Dates for China Move Forward
The September 2022 Visa Bulletin contains positive news for the EB-5 industry and shows that now is an ideal time to consider investing in an EB-5 project—preferably one in a rural area.
After many months of inactivity, the cutoff dates for Chinese EB-5 investors finally advanced in the September 2022 Visa Bulletin. Chinese EB-5 investors will certainly benefit if this becomes a consistent trend.
The final action date for Chinese investors is now December 22, 2015. This means that Chinese investors who filed Form I-526 before this date can receive their EB-5 visas.
The cutoff date for Chinese investors has advanced to January 1, 2016. Chinese investors who filed their I-526 petitions before this date can apply for their visas to the NVC upon approval of Form I-526.
While any progress toward clearing the backlog of Chinese EB-5 visa applications is welcome, investors of this nationality can still expect years of additional delays. Fortunately, the arrangement for reserved EB-5 visa categories allows new EB-5 investors to skip cutoff dates entirely and immigrate without delays related to visa availability.
Set-Aside Visas Under the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022
Under the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, 32% of the total EB-5 visa supply is set aside for investors in targeted employment area (TEA) and public infrastructure projects. TEAs are either rural or high-unemployment locations.
Investors in rural and high-unemployment TEA projects are eligible for 20% and 10% of the EB-5 visa supply, respectively. Investors in infrastructure projects are entitled to 2%.
All of the set-aside visa categories are marked as “Current” in the September 2022 Visa Bulletin, meaning that new investors are still eligible for set-aside visas.
New investors who obtain a set-aside EB-5 visa will be able to avoid delays related to visa availability and cutoff dates. Since their visas will already be set aside, new EB-5 investors in TEA or infrastructure projects will be eligible for a visa upon approval of the I-526E petition. At the same time, obtaining a reserved visa will only result in faster immigration for investors from countries experiencing visa retrogression.
Benefits of Rural EB-5 Projects
Of the three categories of reserved EB-5 visas, rural projects have by far the largest supply. Rural projects also qualify their investors for priority processing of Form I-526E.
While investing in a commercial enterprise located in a rural territory can entail a degree of financial risk, several rural EB-5 projects follow proven business models and have succeeded both financially and from an immigration perspective.
EB5AN offers EB-5 investors a free consultation to help them identify the best EB-5 projects that will increase their chances of a timely return of capital and successful immigration. For example, the Wohali Utah rural EB-5 project qualifies investors for a reserved EB-5 visa, priority processing of Form I-526E, an I-526E approval guaranty, and several other unique benefits.
For information, schedule a free consultation with EB5AN.