What does the EB-5 priority date refer to, and what is it for?

There is a limited number of EB5 visas that can be issued each fiscal year, and this total is further divided between nations. When EB5 applications from a country exceed the available supply, visa retrogression occurs. Nations with historically high EB5 demand often experience visa retrogression, such as China and India. Due to a limited supply of visas, EB5 investors are assigned priority dates to regulate the allocation of EB5 visas.

Also known as the filing date or receipt date, the EB-5 priority date is the date on which United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives and files an I-526 petition. After their I-526 petition is approved, an EB5 applicant must wait until their priority date becomes current before they can proceed with the visa application process. In essence, a priority date can be thought of as an investor’s spot in line for an EB5 green card.

Countries experiencing visa retrogression are assigned a cut-off date to regulate who can apply for an EB5 visa. EB5 applicants can view which countries have a cut-off date on the Visa Bulletin, which is published every month by the U.S. Department of State. Applicants from countries that are marked current — which appears as a “C” on the bulletin — can apply for a green card. However, if an applicant’s country has a cut-off date, they must wait until their priority date falls on or before the cut-off date to continue with the application process.

Once an investor’s priority date becomes current, their next step will depend on where they are residing at the time of applying for a green card. Applicants located inside the United States can apply for adjustment of status with Form I-485, while those living abroad must go through consular processing at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home nation. Either way, success will grant the applicant conditional permanent resident status in the United States.