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.