Veteran immigration lawyer Bernard Wolfsdorf says that the “spillover” of family-based visas to EB-5 this year combined with the reduced investor activity due to higher investment amounts will mean far more visas for China applicants. He estimates Chinese wait times could be as short as six to eight years now.
The Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that unused family-based visas for any fiscal years are added to the employment-based numbers for the following fiscal year. That means 120,000 or more family-based visas in FY 2021 will be added to the employment-based quota. This year that total number will be employment-based 261,500 visas. EB-5 gets 7.1% of that number, which amounts to 18,566, the highest number ever for the program.
EB-5 in FY 2021 will have almost double the typical year’s visa quota. In addition, EB-5 visas that are unused by specific countries (each with a cap of 7% of the total EB-5 number) go to EB-5 petitioners who have been in line the longest.
With a country cap of about 1,300 this year, most countries besides China and India, will not use their quota. The “leftover” EB-5 visas in FY 2021 will contribute to what Wolfsdorf states will be “the best ever year for China visa issuance.”
In terms of actual numbers, here’s his math: 18,566 – 2,600 for India and Vietnam = 15,966 visas for China and the rest of the world. With an estimate of 2,500 for “rest of the world”, China would get 13,466 visas in FY 2021.
Beyond unused family-based visas, there is another element at play that Wolfsdorf says will positively impact Chinese EB-5 numbers: reduced demand from most countries.
The November 21, 2019 Modernization Rule increased EB-5 minimum investment amounts to $900,000 which has dramatically lowered the number of investors who can afford the program’s new price tag. In fact, only (21) I-526 petitions were filed globally in Q2 Fy 2020. While the market will acclimate somewhat to the new numbers, it is a certainty they will be down from years past and most countries will not use their yearly quota; this will increase the numbers China will receive each year moving forward.
In previous years, about 3,000 unused “rest of the world” visas went to China; going forward Wolfsdorf predicts that number will double with at least 6,000 “rest of the world” visas going to China each year. Wolfsdorf arrives at this number figuring that China and India will account for 1,400 a year and the rest of the world could be around 1,600. [Wolfsdorf operates with the number 6,000, not 7,000 and does not account for the difference of the extra 1,000.]
With a yearly pool of at least 10,000 EB-5 visas, that would mean perhaps as many as 7,000 extra visas going to petitioners at the back of the line.
The Chief of Visa Controls and Reporting Division at the U.S. Depart of State, Charles Oppenheim, said in June 2020 that there were 42,575 petitions on file for China. This number includes principal investors and family members.
With just 6,000 extra visas going to China each year, the backlog numbers Oppenheim cited could be eliminated in about six to seven years.
While the numbers are just educated guesswork right now, it almost a given that the higher investment threshold will mean a smaller investor market. Chinese petitioners, who recently believed their wait could be as long as 16 years, should rejoice.
Read the Wofsdorf Rosenthal blog “Could the China EB-5 Visa Waiting Line for FY 2021 (October 2020) Be About 8 Years For a New Case?”
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