EB-5 Investor Visa Processing Times Fall to Four Year Low

EB-5 Investor Visa Average Processing Times Falls to Just 14 months

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that processing times for Form I-526 – the EB-5 application form – has fallen to a five year low of just 14 months on average.

Conventional belief holds that average processing times are much longer because of the confusion caused by the processing time range published on the USCIS website. That range currently lists this time range as between 33.5 months and 60 months.

What the Current Processing Times on USCIS Website Actually Mean

Yet those numbers can be misleading. USCIS calculates the date range as follows: the first date is the average time that it takes them to process 50% of cases, while the second date is the average time that it takes them to process 93% of cases.

So within those parameters, many EB-5 applicants experience much shorter processing times as the latest figures published by USCIS attest. It is the longer and more complicated cases that draw the time our. Direct EB-5 (non Regional Center), for example, are usually more complicated and take longer to process.

This is good news for anyone considering an EB-5 visa application. Especially those from countries that are not currently subject to retrogression delays. I.e. anyone except those born in China and Vietnam.

USCIS changed the way it sequences applications from a first-in-first-served basis to one where it prioritizes people applying from countries not in retrogression.

Average Processing Times for Form I-526 (Source: USCIS)

Year Average Processing Time
201615.9 months
201718.8 months
201822.2 months
201919.8 months
202014.1 months

The submission of the form I-526 is the first official stage of the EB-5 process. The date USCIS received your form becomes your “priority date”. This needs to be checked against the State Department’s visa bulletin to establish if you can proceed to the next stage and submit your application to the National Visa Center.

The vast majority of countries are listed as “Current” meaning you can move immediately to the next stage. Countries with a date listed against EB-5 in the visa bulletin – currently only Vietnam and China – must wait. There are two separate dates, a date for filing and a final action date. We explain what this means in our analysis of the visa bulletin. Click here for more.

The EB-5 visa provides a relatively fast route to a Green Card in exchange for a minimum $900,000 in a new venture that creates ten jobs. The investment must be made in a targeted employment area, otherwise the investment level doubles to $1.8 million. The vast majority of investors opt to invest with Regional Centers to mitigate compliance risks. Conducting due diligence on the Regional Center and its investment project is vital. One application and investment can include the applicant, a spouse, and children under the age of 21.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


Clients Wait Out the EB-5 Queue in the USA Using E-2 Visa

D&A Clients Wait Out the EB-5 Queue in the USA Using E-2 Visa

We are delighted to have received yet another E-2 Treaty Investor Visa approval today. This time it’s for a client who already has an approved EB-5 application, but is facing a wait before an EB-5 visa becomes available. In fact, she is part of a growing trend of people looking to the E-2 visa as a means of moving to the United States faster than EB-5 allows.

The EB-5 Visa is proving fantastically popular in some quarters – especially China and Vietnam where supply is often outpacing demand. As well as India, South Korea and Taiwan where demand is fast catching up with supply.

When demand exceeds supply, that country is subject to a waiting list for EB-5.

There are normally around 700 EB-5 visas available to each country per year. The quota does not take account of population size, which partially explains why demand is so high in certain countries.

Growing demand can also be explained by the fact that the EB-5 investor visa is offers permanent residency at a lower cost than other similar nations, for example the UK starts from £2 million and Italy, which was mostly more expensive until the Italian government reduced its investment amounts over the summer in response to Covid-19.

How long are the delays?

It is hard to calculate the exact length of the delay faced by each country because they are subject to so many moving parts. We explain the delays in more detail in our analyses of the visa bulletins.

Citizens of China are subject to extremely long, multi-year delays. For Vietnam the delay is shorter but still an inconvenience. And for India there is currently no delay, but there were delays as recently as this summer. Taiwan and South Korea have never faced delays, but they are heading in that direction.

Some people opt to wait out the delays in their home country, but others are keen to get to the United States sooner. That is where the E-2 visa comes in.

The E-2 Visa has no waiting list and processing times are very fast

The EB-5 country-quota depends upon a person’s country of birth rather than their current citizenship. For example, the client approved for E-2 today was born in mainland China but is currently an Australian citizen. That means that for EB-5 purposes our client is subject to the China quota – which has a long waiting list – rather than the Australian quota which has never come anywhere close to its annual cap.

Yet that Australian citizenship has come in handy when it comes to the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. Because, although there are no caps or quotas for E-2, eligibility for this visa is determined by your country of citizenship.

China does not hold and E-2 Treaty Country with the United States, so its citizens are ineligible. Australia, on the other hand, has a well-established treaty that makes its citizens eligible for the E-2 visa.

Essentially, you must be a citizen of an E-2 Treaty country in order to qualify for an E-2 visa. This means the country in which you hold citizenship must hold a relevant Treaty with the United States. Click here to find out if your country is on the list.

Becoming eligible for the E-2 Visa

If your country is not on the list then you can become eligible through a two-step process. First you need to obtain citizenship of an E-2 Treaty country, then you can apply for the E-2.

It sounds complicated, but in reality it is relatively simply. We have done this for a number of clients in the past. The whole process can take as little as nine months if everything runs smoothly.

Grenada and Turkey offer fast and cost-effective routes to citizenship that can provide a springboard to the E-2 Visa. Learn more about Grenada’s citizenship program here. Learn more about Turkey here.

Benefits of the E-2 Visa

So why have people bothered going to so much trouble? Well for one thing, Turkey and Grenada offer multiple benefits in their own right. But also because people get excited by the E-2 visa, which allows them to move to the United States for the purposes of owning and operating a business.

  • Investment requirements are relatively modest (no hard-and-fast rule, but usually starting from around $100,000).
  • You can start your own business or purchase a franchise
  • You can bring your spouse and children with you
  • Spouses can apply to work outside the business
  • You have freedom to travel to and from United States
  • There is no longer a requirement for a physical office space
  • The visa is renewable indefinitely – if the underlying business remains

E2 to EB-5

Unlike the EB-5 visa, the E-2 visa does not offer permanent residency. So if you close the underlying business, you would be required to leave the United States or find an alternative.

The E-2 Business Could Qualify for EB-5 if it Meets the Requirements

That is where the EB-5 comes in. There are two options for transitioning to EB-5 from E-2. Firstly, if your E-2 business has grown large enough, it may qualify as an EB-5 investment in its own right. The invested capital would need to be more than $900,000 if your business is situated in a targeted employment area ($1.8 million outside of these areas). It would also need to be able to sustain ten full-time employees.

Alternatively, you can invest in the EB-5 Regional Center program separately to your E-2 business. This removes the challenge of ensuring your business is consistently compliant with the EB-5 rules. While the Regional Center works to ensure compliance, you and your attorney should still be conducting due diligence on the Regional Center’s investment project to identify any risks to your Green Card and investment.

Case study

Our client established a New York-based company that sells well-designed, high quality, comfortable women’s clothing. It sells products online but the items will also be available in luxury department stores.  

Customers are able to order items directly from the Company’s website, Instagram, or mobile application. The Company uses engaging social media content, with a focus on building a brand through storytelling and it employs technology to create an immersive experience for clients through application of augmented reality (AR).

Our client was born in China but is currently an Australian citizen. She already has an approved EB-5 application (Form I-526), but faced a long wait for an EB-5 visa with all other Chinese-born applicants.

Chinese citizens are not eligible for the E-2 visa, but by holding Australian citizenship, she was eligible. This means the client was able to apply for an E-2 visa to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams in the United States.

Nevertheless, most of her funds came from China, which meant there were restrictions on the transfer of funds that required careful planning. Additionally, the closure of the US consulates in Melbourne delayed the interview and slowed the whole process by several months.

We wish her the best of luck in America.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


EB-5 Visa Quotas in 2021

EB-5 Visa Quotas Almost Double in 2021, Potentially Benefiting India, China, Vietnam

The number of EB-5 visas available to investors is set to almost double in the coming year – a peculiar side-effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.

EB-5 is an employment-based US immigrant visa. The number of employment-based immigrant visas available each year is limited to 140,000. However, this is topped up if there are any unused family-based visas from the previous year.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented number of unused family-based visas. The closure of US embassies and the temporary suspension of various visa categories have had a significant impact.

This means there is a large number of visas that can be carried over from the family-based allocation to the employment-based one. The October Visa Bulletin puts this at 121,500 visas.

When added to the 140,000 visas, this means that 261,500 employment-based visas are available for the fiscal year 2021, which runs from October 2020 to September 2021.

What does this mean for EB-5?

As the acronym suggests, EB-5 is the fifth employment-based visa category. It targets foreign investors with an offer of permanent residency (Green Card) for a $900,000 investment that creates ten American jobs in a Targeted Employment Area. Learn more.

EB-5 is limited to 7.1% of the total employment-based visas available in any given year. Normally this is almost 10,000 visas, but in the bumper FY2021 this will jump to 18,566 visas.

18,566 EB-5 Visas Available in FY2021

Each country is subject to an annual cap. No country can exceed more than 7% of the total EB-5 visas available. This is determined by country of birth (unlike the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, which takes account of country of current citizenship see: E-2 plus Citizenship by Investment)

Normally, that means each country is subject to an annual quota of around 700 visas. Note: that the number of visas does not equate to the number of applications. A single application and investment can cover the applicant, a spouse, and dependant children under 21. Each individual would be counted separately in terms of visas but together as one in terms of applications.

The 2021 rollover means 1299 visas available to each country in this fiscal year. While most countries don’t come close to this annual limit, three countries are or have been severely impacted by this: India, China and Vietnam.

EB-5 Country Quota of 1300 in FY2021

Demand for EB-5 visa from these three countries is especially high and has often exceeded supply. This is a result of their large populations and historically high levels of interest in emigrating to the United States.

When demand exceeds supply, the countries enter what is called visa retrogression and applicants face a waiting list. How this work in practice is detailed on our visa bulletin blog.

With more visas available, there is opportunity for China and Vietnam to make greater inroads into the current backlogs. This would significantly reduce waiting times. India has not faced retrogression since July, but it had been teetering close to a return to waiting list. The risk of retrogression would recede.

India and China also face visa retrogressing in other employment-based visa categories, including EB-1 for people with extraordinary ability and EB-3 for highly skilled workers. The waiting times in both these visa categories may also fall.

Ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic

Caveats remain. An increase in visa availability would need to be matched by an administrative capacity to cope. With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing, it is unlikely that business-as-usual will resume anytime soon.

This may mean that India, Vietnam and China are unable to make full use of the extra visa availability in 2021. Any unused visas would not be rolled over again.

Yet, the ongoing pandemic may also mean that family-based visas will not use up their full allocation in 2021 either. This portends further rollovers into the employment-based visa categories in 2022.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


November Visa Bulletin Analysis for EB 5 Investor Visa

November Visa Bulletin Analysis

The Department of State has issued the November visa bulletin showing little movement for Chinese- and Vietnamese- born EB-5 investor visa applicants continuing to face delays. All other countries remain “current” for EB-5, meaning there is no waiting list for a Green Card.

India has been “current” since July, but retrogression delays may return because demand for EB-5 has been consistently high in recent years. Indians planning an EB-5 petition should consider acting while the country is current. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has changed the way it sequences EB-5 applications to benefit countries that are current over countries facing retrogression delays.

The Final Action Date for Vietnam crept forward two weeks to August 15, 2017, while China remained unchanged at August, 15 2015. The Final Action Date refers to whether there is expected to be a visa available within a quota system (or visas – plural – depending upon how many family members are included in the application).

The date in question here is the priority date. This is the date that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services received your initial EB-5 petition (I-526).

Visa availability is determined by a country quota. As with all the employment-based immigrant visa categories, no country is permitted more than 7 percent of the total visas available in any given year (approximately 10,000 for EB-5).

In the case of EB-5 that is just over 700 visas, determined by the primary applicant’s country of birth.

Visa Bulletin Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Categories

The visa bulletin also includes a Date for Filing. This refers to when you can submit your visa application to the National Visa Center, even though there might not yet be a visa available. For applicants outside the US, this additional date provides some extra notice to prepare the application documentation. For applicants inside the US adjusting their status, they may be able to apply for a work permit based on the Date for Filing.

Most countries have current filing dates, with the sole exception of China, which has a Date for Filing four months sooner than its Final Action Date.

Visa Bulletin Date for Filing for Employment-Based Categories

The EB-5 program provides the opportunity to obtain Green Cards for a $900,000 investment in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) in the United States. The investment must sustain ten American jobs. Outside of these TEAs, the required investment is $1.8 million. A single application can cover the primary applicant, a spouse, and any children under the age of 21.

EB-3 Visas – Permanent Residency for Skilled Workers

China and India remain in visa retrogression in the EB-3 visa category for highly-skilled workers. The EB-3 visa is similar to the H-1B visa which is especially popular in India. However, as an immigrant visa, the EB-3 offers permanent residency whereas the H-1B visa does not. H-1B is renewable up to a limit of six years, after which the holder needs to explore alternatives like EB-3 and EB-5, or leave the country.

The Date for Filing is significantly more recent than the Final Action Date for Indians in particular. This time gap has implications for certain applicants’ ability to work in the United States. This relates to people already in the US seeking adjustment of status. If you are in this position, we advise you to speak with one of our attorneys.

EB-1 Visas

Similarly, people born in India and China are the only two groups facing delays in the EB-1 visa category. The EB1-A visa targets individuals with extraordinary abilities in their field, the EB1-B visa targets academics, and the EB-1C visa is for multinational managers and executives.

People faced with retrogression in these categories should contact us. There are non-immigrant counterparts that are not subject to quotas and could provide a pathway to these immigrant (permanent residency) categories at a later stage. The EB1-C, for example is similar to the non-immigrant L-1 visa, and the EB1-A is similar to the non-immigrant O-1 visa.

Non-immigrant status has advantages to people who do not wish to obtain permanent residency. For example, US permanent residents are liable for tax on income earned outside the US. This does not apply to non-immigrant visas. People seeking permanent residency are encouraged to arrange a consultation with our tax attorney as early in the process as possible.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.