According to the Department of State, the number of available employment-based visas will increase from approximately 140,000 to 261,500, increasing the number of available EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program visas. Approximately 7.1% of employment-based visas are allocated to the EB-5 program, making about 9,940 visas available in a normal year. However, in 2021, the State Department anticipates that about 18,567 visas will be allocated to the EB-5 Program.
The extra visas are available because many of the allocated visas for 2020 were not issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shutdowns, and the Trump Administration’s immigration ban. In particular, thousands of family visas were not issued and will be allocated to the employment-based category.
Allocation by Country
The State Department will make 7% of each of the EB-5 visas available in each country. However, countries experiencing a significant backlog of visas (in particular, China, Vietnam, and India) will have 1,300 visas available rather than the usual 700 or so.
The State Department warned that these visa availabilities are contingent on embassies and consulates remaining open and processing visa applications. Earlier this year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) began phasing in regular services. However, with the severe outbreak in the United States and Europe, many of these consulates may close back down or pare back services.
Getting a Visa
The State Department anticipates that many of the visas will go to applicants whose I-526 Petition was approved due to the recent slowdowns in service. It is difficult for the USCIS to estimate how long it will take an applicant to receive a visa from application submission to completion due to various factors.
In the second and third quarters, the USCIS only received 61 I-526 petitions. Moreover, about 40% of I-526 Petitions were denied over the same period (which is not to say that those petitions filed in that period were the ones denied). Therefore, it is estimated that the retrogression rates should reduce dramatically once the visas available to the EB-5 category are significantly expanded next year.
The denial rate has risen from 10% in 2015 to 28% in 2020. However, these rates are cautionary warnings for investors to carefully track the investment project to ensure that it is approved. The project must meet various meters relating to job creation, business operation, and TEA.