Why do Mainland China EB-5 applicants face a longer wait time to receive their conditional green cards?

EB-5 investors from Mainland China face a longer wait time to receive their conditional U.S. permanent resident status because the demand for visas in China exceeds the number of visas available. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administers the EB-5 Visa Program, while the Department of State (DOS) issues the fixed number of EB-5 visas available per each USCIS fiscal year. For the 2022 fiscal year, the DOS made approximately 20,000 EB5 visas available.

Each country participating in the EB-5 program is allotted about 7% of the total number of visas available. This means that approximately 1,400 visas are available for Chinese investors. However, EB-5 applications from Mainland China are in high demand, so USCIS wouldn’t be able to approve their Form I-526 petitions—Immigrant Petition by an Alien Investor—even if they met all of the requirements. This creates a backlog and the need for cutoff dates.

Cutoff Dates & Priority Dates

The high demand for EB-5 visas in Mainland China, coupled with the 7% allocation for each nationality, has created a considerable backlog for the country since May of 2015. In 2021, the backlog was still far from being cleared and China was the only country dealing with the issue. The country has two cutoff dates—a date for filing, which restricts when investors can apply to the National Visa Center, and a final action date, which restricts when investors can receive their visas.

Each visa applicant is given a priority date—the date when USCIS received their application—and when that date matches the cutoff date, that is when an EB-5 investor’s application can move forward in the process. This information is made available to applicants in the monthly visa bulletin.

Reserved Visas

The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 made significant changes to the industry. One of those is the creation of reserved visas, which are set aside for projects in targeted unemployment areas (TEAs). The DOS will reserve 32% of the yearly EB5 visa pool for applicants who invest in these types of projects, and that will significantly improve the processing times for high-demand nationalities like Mainland China. Applicants who invest in these projects are not subject to their country’s backlogs.