On March 18, 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning in the United States, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) closed all its offices to the public. The move, which mirrored the actions taken by businesses and institutions all across the country, was meant to slow the spread of the deadly SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, USCIS didn’t halt all operations. Any processes that don’t require face-to-face interaction, such as the adjudication of I-526 and I-829 petitions, have continued throughout the entire pandemic.
In addition to the domestic closure of USCIS offices, all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad have also temporarily suspended their routine services, switching to emergency-only services. This has left overseas EB-5 investors unable to claim their visas, resulting in a faster EB-5 journey for EB-5 investors already residing in the United States on a different visa. All such investors need to do to claim their visa is file an I-485 petition to adjust their immigration status.
On June 4, 2020, USCIS reopened its offices to the public, once again permitting in-person appointments. Under the “new normal” of the COVID-19 pandemic, all visitors are required to comply with strict health guidelines for the protection of themselves and the USCIS staff. Depending on regional circumstances, some offices may remain closed—EB-5 investors should consult the office closures page to verify the status of their local USCIS office. Emergency services are always available, however—anyone who requires emergency USCIS services should contact the agency using the USCIS Contact Center.
Wait times for appointments may be long because USCIS cannot allow a large number of appointments and interviews during the pandemic. EB-5 investors are asked to be patient and understanding about measures against the unprecedented global health crisis. Additionally, anyone who feels sick, regardless of whether they’ve tested positive for COVID-19, should reschedule their appointment. USCIS has announced that appointment reschedulings due to illness will not be penalized.
Final Action Dates Continue Moving Forward in June 2020
Throughout 2020, the final action dates for Chinese, Indian, and Vietnamese EB-5 investors have steadily progressed forward. June 2020’s Visa Bulletin is no exception, with the Indian final action date in particular rapidly advancing, jumping all the way to January 1, 2020. The Indian final action date may very well become current by summer 2020, as USCIS has predicted—the July 2020 Visa Bulletin could prove interesting. However, even if the Indian final action date becomes current, Indian EB-5 investors should not necessarily rejoice. EB-5 processing is a messy and nonlinear process, and the inability of overseas investors to claim their EB-5 visas could result in a major retrogression in the future.