September 2023 Visa Bulletin: No Progress in Chinese and Indian Backlogs; Rural EB-5 Visas Remain Current

EB-1 Wait Times Remain Very Long for Indian Nationals

The Visa Bulletin for August 2023 introduced very long delays for Indian nationals applying for the EB-1 visa. Due to major backlogs in petition processing, the category retrogressed 10 years with the cutoff date placed on January 1, 2012.

As of the Visa Bulletin for September 2023, this cutoff date has not changed.

Indian nationals who applied for the EB-1 visa after January 1, 2012 are not currently eligible for the visa. Depending on their priority date and EB-5 application category, Indian nationals can expect wait times as long as 10 to 50 years.

Moreover, considering the demand for EB-1 visas from India, the cutoff date and resulting wait times may increase even further in upcoming Visa Bulletins.

Such extreme wait times will likely interrupt the plans of many Indian EB-1 applicants.

For example, children of EB-1 applicants are not protected against aging out of the program. If a dependent child reaches the age of 21 before their parent’s I-140 petition is adjudicated then they become ineligible for the visa. On top of that, career opportunities currently available to EB-1 applicants may no longer be open by the time an Indian national receives their visa.

With thousands of pending applications and increasingly long wait times, many Indian nationals may be pushed to withdraw their EB-1 applications and opt for a quicker immigration route.

While the EB-1 category requires an applicant to possess extraordinary ability, be an outstanding professor or researcher, or be a multinational executive or manager, the EB-5 program simply requires a qualifying investment in a U.S. project.

Backlog of Chinese and Indian EB-5 Applications

Since the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA) was signed into law, China and India — two of the largest EB-5 markets — have experienced a surge in demand.

Despite the efforts of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the backlog of pending applications from both countries is still substantial.

As of the latest Visa Bulletin for September 2023, there is no progress toward clearing the petition backlogs for either country, and the EB-5 final action dates for China and India remain set at September 8, 2015, and April 1, 2017, respectively.

This means that Chinese and Indian EB-5 applicants who invested before the RIA face increasingly long wait times to complete the EB-5 immigration process.

Faster Route to a Green Card with EB-5; Obtain an EAD and Travel Permit in Only Days

For Indian and Chinese visa applicants facing lengthy wait times, the EB-5 program offers a much faster way to obtain a U.S. Green Card. By investing in a project that qualifies for targeted employment area (TEA) status, an EB-5 applicant can qualify for a reserved visa.

These comprise 32% of the annual EB-5 visa total and are set aside for investors in TEA and infrastructure projects. As of the September 2023 Visa Bulletin, all set-aside visa categories remain “current” for all nations, meaning there is no processing backlog.

EB-5 investors who qualify for a set-aside visa are not subject to their home nation’s assigned cutoff date, meaning they can bypass the lengthy waiting times they would face otherwise with a regular EB-5 visa. This allows applicants to get their Green Cards upon I-526 approval and adjust their immigration status immediately upon filing Form I-526. (The latter applies to those who already live in the United States under non-immigrant visas.)

On top of that, USCIS grants priority processing to the I-526 petitions of rural TEA investors.

However, it is important to keep in mind that there is a limited number of reserved visas each year, meaning these categories can also become backlogged. Of the annual EB-5 visa pool, 20% is set aside for rural TEA projects, 10% for high-unemployment TEAs, and 2% for infrastructure projects.

Therefore, the larger supply of set-aside rural visas makes it a safer option for Chinese and Indian nationals; applicants who invest in a rural TEA project will have the best chance of getting a set-aside visa before the supply is exhausted.

As another major benefit of the EB-5 program, foreign nationals who reside in the U.S. on non-immigrant visas — such as the H1-B, L-1, E-2, and F-1 categories — can immediately adjust their immigration status via concurrent filing. For H-1B workers or holders of other visas close to expiration, this is one of the very few options to quickly change their immigration status and remain in the United States.

In addition, concurrent filing lets EB-5 investors apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) and travel permit, allowing them to work and travel anywhere in the nation while awaiting adjudication. An investor in EB5AN’s Twin Lakes project got an EAD and travel permit in only 60 days.

Embarking on the EB-5 Process

Investing in a reserved visa EB-5 project provides Chinese and Indian investors with a much faster path to a U.S. Green Card than the standard EB-5 process and many other visa categories. This is especially the case for Chinese and Indian nationals who already live in the United States.

However, there is a limited number of set-aside visas available. To ensure eligibility, we encourage Chinese and Indian nationals to start planning their EB-5 investments as soon as possible.

For practical insights on how to go about the EB-5 process, watch our interview series featuring testimonials from investors in EB5AN projects.

The unrestricted benefits of an EB-5 Green Card—full employment authorization, freedom to travel, and more—can be yours faster than ever before. For further guidance on the quickest way to enjoy the benefits of EB-5 immigration, schedule a free consultation with EB5AN.