Interest in the direct EB-5 investment model has increased over recent months, and the March 2022 Visa Bulletin brings more good news to the industry. The bulletin from the U.S. Department of State (DOS) indicates that foreign nationals from all countries who have made a direct EB-5 investment are able to proceed in their immigration process without restrictions on when they can take each step towards their visas.
Cutoff dates have been applied to investors from countries that have a high number of applicants. These dates limit when they can apply for or receive their conditional EB-5 visas. These cutoff dates help manage the backlog of applications from investors of these nationalities. Chinese investors, for example, had been subject to cutoff dates for several years.
However, in the December 2021 Visa Bulletin, the DOS declared direct investors of all nationalities to have “current” status. The March Visa Bulletin confirms that this is still the case.
Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases – Chart A
Final action dates indicate when an investor can receive their conditional residency visa. This step occurs after United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the investor’s Form I-526. Investors from countries where a final action date is in force will be unable to receive their U.S. green cards until the date listed in the Visa Bulletin catches up with the date on which they filed their Form I-526. This can add several years to the EB-5 process.
The final action dates are listed in Chart A of the Visa Bulletin. In the March 2022 bulletin, direct EB-5 investors from all nationalities (the “5th Non-Regional Center” row) have “current” status.
The “5th Regional Center” row indicates that applications from all nationalities are “unauthorized.” Since the regional center program expired in June 2021, USCIS has not been processing I-526 petitions associated with regional centers. Undoubtedly, this situation has contributed to the current status of direct investors, as it frees up resources to handle the backlog of direct investor applications.
However, it is not clear how long this situation will last: EB-5 experts anticipate that EB-5 reform could be enacted as soon as March 2022. An appropriations bill due to be considered on March 11, 2022 may include legislation related to the EB5 investment industry, such as reauthorizing the regional centers. If this happens, the DOS may implement cutoff dates for direct EB-5 investors once more.
Dates for Filing of Employment-Based Visa Applications – Chart B
Dates for filing are presented in Chart B of the Visa Bulletin. These dates limit when an investor can apply for their conditional green card after receiving USCIS approval for their Form I-526.
All direct investors have “current” status in Chart B of the March 2022 bulletin, indicating that foreign nationals who made a direct EB5 investment can apply for their visas as soon as their I-526 petitions are approved. The regional center row on Chart B indicates that Chinese regional center investors are still subject to a date for filing, suggesting that they will still experience delays if the regional center program is reauthorized.
It is likely that the coming months will bring more changes to the EB-5 investment industry. However, at present, the direct EB-5 investment model is increasingly popular, and the latest Visa Bulletin offers reassurance that direct investors are still given “current” status. Even if the EB-5 Regional Center Program is reauthorized this year, it is possible that the direct investment model will continue to be popular amongst foreign nationals looking to relocate to the United States.