On May 6, 2019, Charles Oppenheim, chief of the U.S. State Department Visa Control and Reporting Division, presented at the IIUSA Conference in Washington, D.C. on the state of visa backlogs for EB-5 immigrant visa applicants. Mr. Oppenheim reported on a number of important issues summarized in this blog.
Between approximately Oct. 1, 2018, and April 30, 2019, a total of 5,077 EB-5 immigrant visas were issued to applicants and their dependent family members for fiscal year (FY) 2019. In general, applicants born in mainland China used less visa numbers this year than the rest of the world, while applicants born in Vietnam and India have used 10% or more EB-5 visa numbers this fiscal year as compared to the last fiscal year. There are approximately 10,000 immigrant visas available for applicants in the EB-5 category each fiscal year.
Mainland China-Born Applicants
Applicants born in Mainland China have historically used most of the EB-5 visas. As a result, China has the longest wait time for an EB-5 visa. The State Department anticipates that around 3,660 “unused” visa numbers from FY 2019 will be made available to Mainland China-born applicants with the earliest priority dates.
Moreover, the State Department does not expect significant movement in the Visa Bulletin at the start of the next fiscal year for Mainland China-born investors. Mr. Oppenheim stated that the October 2019 Visa Bulletin will advance the priority date for Mainland China-born applicants to between Oct. 8-15, 2014. For those filing an I-526 Petition today, the expected wait time could be about 16 years. However, according to Mr. Oppenheim, the wait time for applicants who filed before May 6, 2019, is expected to be less.
Mr. Oppenheim explained that Vietnam continues to be the country with the second highest EB-5 visa demand, behind Mainland China. In FY 2018, Vietnam used 7.2% of all EB-5 visas. In FY 2019, Vietnam is expected to use 10.7% of all EB-5 visas. Additionally, Vietnamese investors tend to have more derivative beneficiaries than other countries (which include a spouse and children under 21), and therefore less visa numbers are available overall for principal applicants. The State Department expects that the October 2019 Visa Bulletin will advance the priority date for Vietnam-born applicants to between Nov. 22, 2016 to Dec. 15, 2016. For new applicants filing an I-526 Petition today, the expected wait time could be approximately seven years, but Mr. Oppenheim was clear that this length of delay does not reflect the wait time for applicants who filed before May 6, 2019.
Mr. Oppenheim expects to institute a cutoff date in the Visa Bulletin for the first time in July 2019 for applicants born in India, although this could occur in June 2019. If so, there will likely be an alert regarding this in the June 2019 Visa Bulletin. Accordingly, EB-5 visa applicants born in India with an approved I-526 Petition should take steps to expedite their case with the National Visa Center to have an interview scheduled and a visa issued as soon as possible. Likewise, India-born EB-5 visa applicants with an approved I-526 Petition who are in the United States in valid nonimmigrant status should take immediate action to file Form I-485.
Between July and September 2019, the State Department expects to retrogress immigrant visa availability to Indian-born EB-5 investors.; it is also expected that the October 2019 Visa Bulletin will advance the priority date for India-born applicants to between Summer 2017 and Fall 2017. For new applicants filing an I-526 Petition today, the expected wait time could be up to eight years, but Mr. Oppenheim was clear that this length of delay does not reflect the wait time for applicants who filed before May 6, 2019.
Rest of the World and Additional Information
The State Department indicated that all other countries will remain current through the end of FY 2019. Mr. Oppenheim made clear that any information provided is just an estimate of the backlog wait times, which cannot and do not account for all variables. Further, the Visa Bulletin predictions do not take into account I-526 Petition withdrawals or revocations, deaths, children aging out, and many other factors, all of which result in availability of immigrant visas to EB-5 applicants. Importantly, these predictions also do not take into account any changes that could happen through statute, new regulations, or other government action.
For more on visa backlog updates, click here.