Everyone across the globe has experienced the drastic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. People’s daily lives and routines have come to a sudden halt, and economies around the world have been destroyed. EB-5 investors are no different, faced with major setbacks caused by the pandemic. Due to the closures of U.S. embassies and consulates, it has been impossible for foreign-based investors to file EB-5 petitions and complete their visa applications, temporarily pausing their EB-5 journey. But, despite all of the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still some ways that it has benefited the EB-5 program.
There are multiple ways that those planning to make or who have already made an EB-5 investment are being positively affected. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some delays in the EB-5 program, which has resulted in a lower risk of EB-5 capital redeployment. In addition, there has been a large spike in the number of available EB-5 visas for FY2021, which is especially good news for any EB-5 investors subject to a visa backlog.
Where Do the Extra Visas Come From?
Each fiscal year, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USICS) allots a specific number of visas for employment-based visa programs. The EB-5 program receives 7.1% of those visas, which is normally around 10,000 visas. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of EB-5 visas granted during FY2020 was limited, as was the number of visas granted in family-based immigration programs. This is relevant because at the end of each fiscal year, any unused family-based visas are carried over to employment-based immigration programs the next fiscal year. Normally, there are around 140,000 visas available for employment-based immigration programs. Because of the unused family-based visas in FY2020, that number has nearly doubled to 261,500 visas available for employment-based immigration programs in FY2021, meaning 7.1% (18,556 visas) will be allotted for the EB-5 program.
How Chinese EB-5 Investors Could Benefit
This is fantastic news for anyone planning an EB5 investment, but it is especially promising to investors subject to visa backlogs. As of October 2020, Chinese and Vietnamese EB-5 applicants are the only foreign nationals subject to EB-5 backlogs. The Chinese backlog has grown even larger since the July 2020 addition of Hong Kong investors to the Chinese EB-5 queue.
Every year, each individual country is limited to approximately 700 EB-5 visas. However, because of the sudden spike in available EB-5 visas for FY2021, this visa limitation jumps to 1,300 EB-5 visas allowed per each country. USCIS has also estimated that the number of qualified EB-5 applicants will be much lower than 261,500, which will result in the leftover visas being granted to Chinese EB-5 investors who have been subject to long wait times due to the large backlog. FY2021 could greatly benefit Chinese investors and significantly reduce the large visa backlog that they face. This is even better news given the negative impacts the new visa availability approach has had on Chinese EB-5 investors.