Intel & DataNorth America

Asians Accounted for 9 in 10 EB-5 Visas Issued in 2023, But Tens of Thousands Still Waiting

Fresh datasets from the US State Department and USCIS demonstrate that interest in the US EB-5 program remains robust and that American embassies and consulates have returned to their pre-COVID processing capacities.

2023 – EB-5 Visas issued and Adjustment of Status 

The number of EB-5 visas issued is a crucial data point in the 2023 fiscal year figures from the US State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. These data reflect information about investors who started their EB-5 journey a few years ago and provide insights about their nationalities and the types of investments they prefer. The figures include not only principal investors but also their immediate family members, spouses, and unmarried children under 21 years old.

Note that the number of visas issued does not reflect the demand for the EB-5 program, as the number of visas issued is a result of a combination of factors, such as the annual limit of issuable EB-5 visas, which is 7% of the total Employment Visas Annual Limit, as well as the operational capacities of consulates.

In 2023, 9,817 EB-5 visas and Adjustments of Status (AoS) were issued, compared to 10,885 in 2022. This clearly shows that US embassy capacities are back to pre-COVID levels.

Once again, Chinese nationals received the highest number of EB-5 visas in 2023, accounting for more than 63% of the total. Despite the long processing times caused by consulate backlogs, China still tops the list of EB-5 markets.

Demand is steadily growing in other locations, primarily in Asia. Indian nationals received 815 EB-5 visas/AoS, Vietnamese 556, South Koreans 446, and Taiwanese 261. Overall, some 9 in 10 EB-visas issued in 2023 went to Asians.

EB-5 investors have two investment options: They can invest in their own business or in a project through a Regional Center. The investment threshold remains consistent for both options but varies depending on the location chosen for the project. Projects located in Targeted Employment Areas (rural areas or regions with high unemployment rates) require a reduced investment amount of $800,000, whereas in non-TEA regions, the minimum investment is $1,050,000.

In 2023, 96% of EB-5 visas, 9,447 in total, were linked to projects backed by Regional Centers in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs). Only five visas were obtained through investments in Regional Center projects outside TEAs.

235 visas were issued to investors and their family members based on investments in their own business located in a TEA and 130 in businesses outside of a TEA. 

EB-5 Program - Petitions, Q1 2024 

The positive trend appears to be continuing also into 2024. USCIS has published a new set of data for processed petitions, including petitions related to the EB-5 Program for the first quarter of the fiscal year 2024, from October 1 to December 31, 2023.

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The first part of the report, which shows what is happening with new applicants, is data related to I-526 petitions. 

The total number of new I-526 petitions filed with USCIS is 613, of which 32 are for own projects and 581 for Regional Center projects. 

This is almost 30% below the final quarter of 2023 but slightly more than in Q1 2023, when 945 and 556 petitions were filed, respectively.

A total of 1,082 petitions were reviewed for investors who had submitted their applications before March 2022. In this case, the denial rate was 36%.

During Q1 2024, a total of 194 post-RIA petitions were approved, three times more than in Q4 2023. There is no information on denied petitions for this period. This could mean that the data are unavailable, or that there is a 100% approval rate for post-RIA petitions. 

On January 1st, 11,420 applicants were waiting for USCIS to review their petitions, 8,539 of whom had filed their petitions before March last year. Many have been waiting for a decision since 2018/2019. 

The second petition in the EB-5 process, the I-829 petition, is an application to remove conditions. Only 87 applicants filed an I-829 in Q1 2024. 902 investors successfully completed their EB-5 journey during the quarter, gaining approvals for their I-829 petitions, thus securing their permanent residency. 

The backlog of pending applications remains exceedingly high and consists of 9,121 applications with an average processing time of more than four years.

33 new Regional Centers applied for registration during the quarter, and 64 new EB-5 projects filed for approval. These figures are, respectively, 30% and 40% higher than in Q4 2023. 

Migration Agents and Third-Party Promoters: Companies working outside of the US to promote EB-5 projects filed 184 forms for initial registration, compared to 192 in the preceding quarter.

The EB-5 visa limit remains the bottleneck

Looking at the two sets of data together, we can see that demand for the EB-5 program sharply exceeds the limits established by the US Government. The annual limit for EB-5 visas for investors and their family members is 7% of the total Employment Immigrant visas, which is slightly below 10,000.

At the end of calendar year 2023, 11,420 investors awaited approval of their I-526 petitions. Each petition is filed for an investor and their family members, thus each approved petition will account for, on average, two to three EB-5 visas. Therefore, if all petitions in the current pipeline were to be approved, it would imply the issuance of between 20,000 and 30,000 visas.

Additionally, the National Visa Center has a separate backlog of petitions stemming from separate country limits. As of November 1, 2023, 39,883 applications were pending, according to an Annual Report of Immigrant Visa Applicants in the Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based preferences registered at the National Visa Center.

The real bottleneck lies in the EB-5 visa limit, and US immigration authorities still need to address the backlog of pending applications to improve efficiency.

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Varvara Latyntseva AuthorSubscriber
Co-Founder and Managing Director , Second Wind

Co-founder and Managing Director of Second Wind EB-5, a company specializing in investment immigration opportunities in the USA.

My goal is helping and advising private individuals and their families with the process of relocating to the USA through the EB5 investment visa program, making their path easier, less risky, and more predictable.

I have been actively involved in the field of immigration for more than 14 years, coordinating immigration processes and managing our relocation agency teams.

Since 2017, my key focus has been on the EB-5 program, and the main area of my expertise. My professional background combines knowledge of Immigration, Finance, Planning, Marketing and working alongside some amazing people, both on the client and partner side.

At Second Wind, I working with our EB-5 clients, develop our network of partners in the US, and oversee marketing and management of the non-immigrant visa team.

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