In its October Visa Bulletin, the United States Department of State (DoS) has announced that a historically high 261,500 immigrant visas will be made available in fiscal year 2021 (which began on Thursday). Because the EB-5 program has a claim to 7.1% of the worldwide immigrant visa quota, the program will be allocated more than 18,500 visas – compared to the customary 10,000 – over the next twelve months.
COVID-related consulate closures and reductions of service had left a large number of family-based visas unused in FY2020, the effect of which has been a sizable increase in the annual visa-limit for all employment-based categories, including EB-5.
“Never in the history of the program has EB-5 been allocated this many visas,” writes Milwaukee-based EB-5 specialist FirstPathway Partners in its newsletter this week.
The news will be welcome to EB-5 applicants from countries in retrogression because the increased quota will make the number of visas available to any given group of nationals 85% greater than during previous years. Under the EB-5 program, each country is limited to 7% (about 700 visas) of the total available EB-5 spots. In years past, this has translated into colossal backlogs for applications from the program’s largest source markets, such as China and Vietnam, for whom visas are routinely oversubscribed.
China, India, and Vietnam, explains FirstPathway Partners, “each stand to gain approximately an additional 600 visas over a typical year. In addition, China which has most of the oldest pending priority dates, could take advantage of a larger than usual pool of leftover visas. If the rest of the world uses 6,000 to 8,000 visas, China could stand to gain over 10,000 visas!”
Should EB-5 applicants use all the newly available visas, wait times for countries in retrogression could fall by years. Moreover, the visa-quota may be amplified for FY 2022 as well:
“If Trump’s executive order on family visas is in place during a substantial portion for 2021 and the family preferences again do not use all their visas, this could mean additional visas again in 2022, further reducing waits,” added FirstPathway Partners.
Another three-month extension
On the same day that the DoS issued its Visa Bulletin, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to keep government-funding running until December 11th this year, which also means the EB-5 regional center program will remain in place unchanged until the same date. This marks the 20th consecutive short-term extension in fewer than four years.
“Assuredly,” writes EB-5 expert Suzanne Lazicki on her blog, “no one in government spared a thought for EB-5 this year. The regional center program regularly gets extended as part of the appropriations process unless someone goes out of the way to change it. Such out-of-the-way effort is unlikely considering other issues competing for attention in Washington, and considering that USCIS already accomplished by regulation the major “reforms” that previously motivated EB-5 legislation.”
Aaron Grau, Executive Director of IIUSA, the EB-5 industry’s chief advocacy group, said in an advocacy alert that while his association was “thankful the EB-5 Regional Center Program did not lapse, Congress and the Administration need to provide more leadership to enact reforms and, ultimately, a long-term reauthorization of the program. If Congress and the Administration continue this cycle of short-term extensions, the program’s potential will remain untapped.”
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.