Since its creation in 1990, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program has continued to gain popularity with foreign nationals all over the world. The program has allowed thousands of foreign nationals to permanently relocate to the United States and enjoy all of the benefits that come along with receiving a U.S. green card. Unfortunately, one of the downfalls of the program that cause foreign nationals to hesitate to make an EB-5 investment is the unreasonable wait times due to an inefficient adjudication process.
EB-5 applicants from China have been the most negatively impacted by the incompetence of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). China, being the most populous country in the world, has the largest EB-5 backlog, leaving Chinese EB-5 investors waiting several years for their petitions to be adjudicated. China’s EB-5 backlog has only gotten worse after the extremely unstable year of 2020, making Chinese wait times even longer.
As of USCIS’s Visa Bulletin for February 2021, the final action date for Chinese investors stands at August 15, 2015, which is extremely disheartening. Some Chinese-based foreign nationals involved with an EB-5 investment have been stuck waiting over four years for their final actions date to become current. To make matters even worse, the Chinese final action date has not moved forward at all since the August 2020 Visa Bulletin. While there is no official data that reveals the number of investors who have already received I-526 approval and are eligible to receive their EB-5 visa, calculations from other USCIS data can be used to derive this number and reveal the unfortunate situation that Chinese EB-5 investors are faced with.
A Closer Look at Chinese EB-5 Statistics
USCIS publishes data that shows the number of EB-5 investors who have approved I-526 petitions but are still waiting for their priority date to become current. This number grows whenever the final action date moves forward and only decreases when EB-5 visas are issued to investors. Because we know that there were no EB-5 visas issued to Chinese investors after March 2020 (due to the closure of the U.S. embassies and consulates in China), we can use USCIS’s data from April 2020 and November 2020 to determine the number of EB-5 investors in line to receive EB-5 visas. This information can help predict when the final action date may advance again.
In April 2020, there were 23,511 Chinese EB-5 investment participants with I-526 approval whose priority date was not yet current. In November 2020, this figure was 21,253. That means that from April 2020 to November 2020, there were 2,258 Chinese investors whose priority date became current, which put them in line for an EB-5 visa. However, if spouses and children are added to the calculation, the data reveals there were roughly 6,136 Chinese nationals in line for an EB-5 visa in November 2020 with the August 15, 2015, final action date.
With these numbers and the fact that EB-5 visa interviews are still suspended in China as of February 2021, it is unlikely that the situation will improve for Chinese investors in FY2021. The chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State, Charles Oppenheim, estimated that roughly 3,000 EB-5 visas would be issued to Chinese EB5 investment participants throughout FY2021. This number was discouraging to say the least and stifled any hope of mass visa issuance due to the large number of available visas in FY2021. Because of this, it is highly unlikely that the Chinese EB-5 final action date will advance much, if at all, in FY2021.