Visa Bulletin Analysis

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.


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.


Relaxation on H1-B and L-1 Visa

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.


EB5 Visa: Cost of Form I-526 Increasing by 9% from October

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the outcome of its biennial fee review earlier this month. Form I-526 – Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor – will be subject to a price increase. The form, which is the first step of the EB-5 application process, will increase to $4,010 from October. This represents a 9% increase on the current price of $3675.

An increase in the minimum investment amount last November is the principle reason for the large increase. At that time, the minimum investment requirement almost doubled from $500,000 to $900,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) and from $1 million to $1.8 million outside of a TEA.

USCIS argues that the increased investment amount means that the Source of Funds work – critical to an I-526 adjudication – has become more complicated, resulting in additional work for the agency. Complicated source of funds often need to go through a managerial review, adding extra cost.

While the price increase is partly to reflect the increased workload for USCIS case officers, there is another reason behind this. The review states that USCIS significantly “overestimated” demand for EB-5, which will lead to a budget shortfall. USCIS is almost entirely fee funded, which makes this especially problematic.

The reason for the overestimation is that demand was calculated before the minimum investment amount increased last November. That increase has dampened demand and the cost of the I-526 has been increased to mitigate that.

The I-829 Form – the Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residency Status – has registered a more modest 4% price increase. This form comes later in the EB-5 process when an investor is eligible to remove the conditions on their Green Card. The new price of an I-829 is $3,900.

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.


President Trump Reverses Ban on Foreign Students Taking Online Courses

President Trump has been forced to make a U-Turn on his attempts to revoke the immigration status of international students taking online courses in the fall. Most university courses across the United States have gone online in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and many are expected to stay that way for the fall semester.

Students and their parents from around the world had been left to reconsider their education plans as a result of the president’s initial announcement.

However, a federal legal challenge by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) caused the Trump administration to rescind the policy.

Almost 400,000 F-1 student visas were issued last year. International students bring billions of dollars to the US economy in tuition fees and spending.

Many of our clients use the F-1 visa to send their children to school in the United States before transitioning to other visa categories after graduation. Some of those visas, particularly the H-1B, is currently under suspension because of President Trump’s executive order of June 2020.

However, other visa categories are not suspended. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program is a relatively fast route to a US Green Card requiring a $900,000 investment. The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa requires a plan to invest in and run a US-based business. As we mentioned in a previous blog posts, it is possible for parents and children to co-own the company to prevent the child from ageing out. Citizens of certain countries have to first obtain additional citizenship, often of Grenada or Turkey. This is usually a relatively straightforward process, contact us to discuss.

Both the E-2 Visa and the EB-5 Visa are exempt from the so-called “immigration ban”. A high proportion of our EB-5 clients are motivated to apply because of their children’s studies and work prospects after graduation.

Written by Duncan Hill. This blog is for informational purposes only, nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances.


D&A Newsletter July 2020: India, US, Italy, Vietnam Immigration

Join our EB-5 Visa Webinar | July 8 2020

Interest in EB-5 visa is growing quickly because it has not been included in President Trump’s “immigration ban”. 

Join us for a free webinar where our Global Chairman, Mark Davies, will answer all your EB-5 questions. Mark will be joined by Matt Hogan, Vice President of Project Development at CMB Regional Centers. The EB-5 visa offers a path to US permanent residency (Green Card) for a minimum $900,000 investment per family. Conditions apply.

July 8, 2020 – 5:30pm India | 7pm Vietnam | 1pm London | 8am New York

Click here to register

Davies & Associates Italy: Expansion

We are pleased to announce the appointment of a new Italian-speaking team member, Matteo Tisato. Matteo is based in our Miami, Florida office and brings experience from working for law firms on both sides of the Atlantic. Matteo is already busy assisting our Italian clients with realizing their US immigration goals. He is also our go-to staff member for anyone seeking residency and citizenship of Italy. Matteo can be reached at mtisato@usimmigrationadvisor.com 

Siamo lieti ti annunciarvi l’ingresso di Matteo Tisato nella squadra Davies & Associates. Matteo gestisce il nostro ufficio a Miami (Florida), assiste tutti i nostri avvocati americani ed è punto di riferimento per la clientela Italiana. Matteo si occupa inoltre di permessi di soggiorno e naturalizzazioni Italiane

Read Matteo’s latest blog on the Italian Elective Residency Visa

Davies & Associates India: Remittance Taxes

The Indian government is changing the way it collects tax on remittance payments from October 1. People seeking to emigrate who do not wish to pay this tax at source and rather account for it later may wish to move their money ahead of the new rules coming into effect. It is possible to pre-emptively move money into an escrow account in the United States until such a time as they are ready to proceed with emigration process.

Read more about India’s remittance tax at source 

Davies & Associates Vietnam: New Hanoi Office

Davies & Associates is opening a new office to meet demand in Vietnam. Our new premises are located in the Hanoi Lotte Center in Ba Dinh, Hanoi. This complements D&A’s Ho Chi Minh City office, located in the landmark Bitexco Tower. Davies & Associates Global Chairman Mark Davies is currently based out of our Vietnam office and is available for meetings. 

Davies and Associates đang mở một văn phòng mới để đáp ứng nhu cầu tại Việt Nam. Cơ sở mới của chúng tôi được đặt tại Trung tâm Lotte Hà Nội, quận Ba Đình, Thành phố Hà Nội.

Contact us to schedule a meeting with D&A Chairman Mark Davies

Davies & Associates India: Retrogression

Big news for EB-5 in India is that the country is technically no longer in retrogression. This may be the artificial result of a slowdown in processing at USCIS. Given recent changes to the way USCIS sequences applications, this could be a favourable time to make an application before processing picks up and India potentially returns to retrogression.

Contact us for a more detailed explanation. 

D&A in the News

Davies & Associates was quoted in the Financial Express on the impact of President Trump’s suspension of H-1B, J-1 and L-1 visas through the end of the year. Mark Davies, Global Chairman of D&A, explained that restrictions on the H-1B have been tightening for years, and that we are seeing an increasing number of H-1B holders looking at the E-2 and the EB-5 visa as alternatives. Both visas have been exempted from the “immigration ban”.

Read the article here.

Finally: Happy Independence Day to Those Celebrating on Saturday

EB-5 Project Due Diligence in Covid-19 era

By Mark Davies, Global Chairman, D&A

While the pandemic was not predictable economic shocks such as the mortgage crisis or just a plain economic downturn are.

Without making any comment at all on any specific EB-5 project, it is true that investors need to make sure that proper protections are in place when investing in any project. Many, not all, EB5 projects simply do not have the protections in them that a normal non-EB5 investor would demand.

There absolutely are real estate EB-5 projects in the market that are doing well, such as pre-leased warehouses or office buildings that are pre-leased to “AAA” clients.

There is far more to EB-5 project review than EB-5 compliance.

It is quite common to see EB-5 projects that have no language protecting clients from future subordination of the EB-5 position. In pre-leased commercial projects immigration lawyers often fail to take “due diligence” step 101 and read that lease on behalf of their client.

There are absolutely steps clients facing challenged projects must take now to protect themselves. Workouts 101.

Also, consider the position of a developer who is also a Regional Center in a workout or bankruptcy. Can they effectively represent the interests of EB5 investors?

***

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program offers a direct route to a US Green Card. The minimum investment requirement is $900,000 and other conditions, such as job creation, apply. The EB-5 Visa is exempted from President Trump’s current “immigration ban”.

Contact me for more information.

Nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice, please contact Davies & Associates for a consultation with an attorney


July Visa Bulletin shows India EB-5 Visa Priority Date as “Current”

The State Department has published the July Visa Bulletin, which offers some insight into the waiting times for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program. The most notable change in this month’s Visa Bulletin is that EB-5 Visa Priority Date for India has become “Current”.

What this means is that India is no longer in retrogression and EB-5 applicants born in India can progress to the next stage and schedule their visa appointment once they are approved.

At first glance this is exciting news and would appear to spell the end of the waiting list for Indians seeking an EB-5 Green Card. However, as we have cautioned before, this is likely to be artificial.

The probable explanation is that the rate of I-526 adjudications at the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has slowed significantly. Only after an I-526 has been approved can an applicant progress to obtaining a visa. So with fewer adjudications there is likely to be less demand at the National Visa Center, causing India to appear as “Current”.

With Covid-19 compounding the slowdown at USCIS, we will be keeping a close eye on the priority dates for you over the next few months.


India Tax Changes on Remittances Delayed to October

Sukanya Raman, Associate in our Mumbai office, analyses changes to India’s taxation of remittances.

In February, 2020 the Union Budget had proposed the levy of Tax Collected at Source (TCS) on remittances made under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) of the Reserve Bank of India. Although, the Scheme was introduced in the year 2004 with a limit of USD 25,000. This is the first time TCS shall be levied at 5% on remittances over and above certain limit.

TCS was to be applicable for remittances on or after April 1, 2020, as per the budget 2020. However, the provision shall now be effective from October 1, 2020.

In a Financial Year (FY) April- March under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme a resident individual can remit USD 250,000, equivalent to INR 1,90,00,000 with an exchange rate of INR 76.00.

LRS is applicable to resident individuals which also allows minors to remit money to any permissible current or capital account transaction or a combination of both. If remitter is a minor, then their natural guardian must undertake a declaration form. The LRS cannot be availed by corporates, partnership firms, HUF, Trusts etc.

TCS shall be collected at the rate of 5% on remittances aggregating to INR 7,00,000 or more in a financial year. 

Per the RBI guidelines, LRS is permitted for private visits to any country (except Nepal and Bhutan), gift or donation, traveling abroad for employment, emigration, investment abroad, maintenance of close relative abroad, medical treatment abroad, overseas education and Any other current account transaction which is not covered under the definition of the current account in FEMA 1999.

Under the LRS, remittances can be consolidated in respect of close family members. However, it shall be subject to the individual family members complying with the terms and conditions of the LRS.

The remitter is eligible to claim credit for the tax collected (TCS) by the bank while filing their Income Tax returns, if it is remitted to the sender’s own account abroad.  

Based on the data released by RBI, remittance rose by 36% in  FY20 to USD 18.75 billion over the previous high of USD 13.78 billion in FY19.

This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant as legal advice. For advice on this matter, please contact our team.


The President’s Immigration Ban: Update

President Trump has signed the Executive Order temporarily suspending some visa categories for an initial 60 days. This mostly applies to people outside the United States seeking permanent residency / Green Cards, excluding the EB-5 program.
The State Department has just issued a clarification stating that the Order is not retroactive and that “no valid visas will be revoked under this proclamation.”
There are a number of exclusions and exemptions. We recommend you contact us to discuss your specific circumstances.

What is NOT included in the ban:

What is also NOT included in the ban, but subject to a 30-day review:

E-3 Australian Professional Specialty Visa

EB-5 Visas Exemption
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa has been given a special exemption from the ban. EB-5 is a job-creating program. Each EB-5 investment is required to create ten American jobs. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is a fast route to a Green Card for families or individuals able to invest $900,000.

Review of Non-Immigrant Visas
The Executive Order only covers immigrants outside the United States seeking permanent residency (Green Cards). Non-immigrant categories, such as the E-2 Visa, the L-1 Visa, and the H-1B Visa are not currently included in the ban.
However, the Executive Order does call for a review of non-immigrant programs within 30 days with a view to “other measures” affecting these categories. The Order instructs the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of State to report recommendations to the President within 30 days regarding restrictions (if any) on non-immigrant visas.

Adjustment of Status
The order only applies to those seeking immigrant visas (i.e. those outside the US seeking to go through consular processing). It does not impact those inside the US already on a valid visa that are eligible to do Adjustment of Status (AOS). Clients should consult us before traveling outside of the United States if they have a pending AOS application or may be eligible to file one in the near future.

Our Advice
We recommend that anyone seeking a US visa proceed with their application. Much can change in the time it takes to prepare one.
With flights grounded and American embassies closed to consular appointments, the Executive Order makes limited material difference in the short term. There are likely to be a number of lawsuits challenging the ban. This is also an election year. A new administration could be expected to reverse this Order.
We will provide updates on the 30-day review of non-immigrant visas. Some non-immigrant categories, such as the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, bring investment to the United States and create jobs.

Each client’s circumstances are different. Please contact us to discuss how this may affect you.

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