Tuesday, October 29, 2019 – Today during the 9th Annual IIUSA EB-5 Industry Forum in Seattle Washington, Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State (DOS) gave Employment-Based Fifth preference (EB-5) stakeholders a preview of potential backlogs and visa usage. In fiscal year 2020 (October 1, 2019 – September 30, 2020), DOS is expected to make available 11,000 EB-5 preference visas, the largest number since 2012. This is up from 10,075 est. in FY19 and 9,602 in FY18. This means each county can expect to limit at 770 visas in FY20.
In FY20 Oppenheim forecasts there will be approximately 5,270 visas available to Chinese, potentially 1,000 more than last year’s 4,326 visas. This gain comes after a continual decline from last year and the approximately 7,500 visas issued in the preceding 2 fiscal years. Depending on adjudication times, we will likely see this trend continue once new regulations are implemented as experts brace for a decline in overall petition filings and visa usage in the coming year, while the market adjusts to the new $900,000 minimum investment threshold.
China’s priority date movement in FY19 was better than projected in May due to a slowdown in adjudications at USCIS. Despite this good news, since October 1, 2018, the priority date for eligible China born visa applicants only advanced 69 days in FY19, from August 15, 2014 to October 22, 2014.
In December, China’s final action date is expected to advance from November 1, 2014, to November 15, 2014. Between now and September 2020, China born applicants could see advancement to best case March 8, 2015; worst case February 15, 2015. The wait for a Chinese petitioner filing today is estimated to be 16.2 years, down slightly from estimates earlier this fiscal year. This assumes only 3,000 unused visas from the rest of the world. Each year all of the extra unused visas are allocated to the oldest priority dates. Right now, for the most part, the oldest priority dates belong to Chinese. I anticipate this 16.2 year wait will continue to shrink as more visas are available due to global use decline from the increase in minimum investment amount. China is also expected to see more visas as the China Student Protection Act deduction concludes, which annually removes 700 visas from the China EB-5 preference pool.
In FY19 India backlogged for the first time in the history of the EB-5 program. Like China, India saw better than anticipated priority date movement this year. In November, visas will be available to those with priority dates earlier than December 8, 2017 with potential advancement in the December visa bulletin to January 1, 2018. This is better than Oppenheim’s Summer 2017 priority date prediction.
The wait for Indian born nationals filing today is projected to be 6.7 years (down from 8.4 years projected in May) from I-526 filing to visa availability. This moves India back to 3rd longest wait, below Vietnam investors. India’s final action date advancement in 2020 remains uncertain as visa usage remains low, but the numbers pending are significant.
Since October 1, 2018, the priority date for eligible Vietnam visa applicants has advanced over 9 months, from January 1, 2016 to October 1, 2016, with most of the advancement in the first half of the fiscal year.
In the December visa bulletin, Vietnam’s final action date is expected to advance to December 1, 2016.
The wait for a Vietnamese petitioner filing today is estimated to be 7.1 years, down slightly from the estimate earlier this year.
All 3 countries will remain current for the duration of FY20.
Rest of the World
The rest of the world will also remain current in FY20.
In 2015 China quickly backlogged with Vietnam following in 2018 and India in 2019. All 3 counties are now over a 6 year wait.
DOS is responsible for administering provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) relating to numerical limitations on immigrant visa issuance, including the per-country annual limit. DOS imposes final action dates on countries in oversubscribed preferences and those preferences likely to become oversubscribed to ensure all visas are properly utilized. The EB-5 preference is limited to 7.1% of the worldwide level, approximately 10,000 annually, with a per-country limit set at 7%, approximately 700.