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November 3 2017

Key EB-5 Visa Updates: Investment Amount Increase, Visa Numbers for India & Vietnam, New Adjustment of Status Rules

EB-5 Investment Amount Increase

The question on everybody’s mind is will the EB-5 investment amount be increased soon and what will the new amount be?

Rumors abound that the TEA amount will be $925,000 and other areas $1,250,000. My information from Washington D.C. is that negotiations in the Senate continue. It looks like the investment amount will increase; the question is how soon, but that has appeared to be the case for about two years. And there is the question, if raised, when will the new amount become effective? On enactment, or at a later date to allow regional centers and developers to adjust their offerings?

We will see.

EB-5 Visa Numbers for Vietnam and India

The EB-5 quota of 10,000 visas has no backlog except for China. For China, a person with an approved EB-5 I-526 petition must have a priority date of July 1, 2014 to obtain a visa number to immigrate. Today, there are no such backlogs for people born in countries other than China.

A cut-off date occurs on the Visa Bulletin when people from one country seek more than 7% of the 140,000 annual employment based visas. In immigration law terms, we call this “retrogression of the cutoff date.” The State Department estimates the China cutoff date to move forward slowly.  Cut off dates for Vietnam and India will also likely be established but will be short and move quickly unless demand skyrockets.

I spoke this weekend at a meeting with the Department of State’s officer who allocates visa numbers. He predicts:

Vietnam: There is such demand for visas that in 2018 there may be an extra wait for a visa number. The State Department predicts that the Vietnam EB-5 quota will retrogress to the same cut-off date as China (some date in 2014) in September 2018, the last month of the fiscal year. In October 2018, the start of the new fiscal year, the Vietnam cutoff date will again become current with no waiting time for a visa number until the following September when the quota for Vietnam will again backlog for one month. Thus, the Vietnam EB-5 quota retrogression will have little impact on the Vietnam EB-5 visa process.

India: The State Department official said that possibly in 2020, India EB-5 cases may also have to wait a bit for a visa number similar to Vietnam.

EB-5 and New Adjustment of Status Rules

After the I-526 is granted, most EB-5 applicants apply for an immigrant visa at the Consulate in the applicant’s home country. Some applicants in the U.S., such as a person on an F-1 student visa, apply for adjustment of status through USCIS without leaving the U.S.

In the past, the USCIS would approve the employment based adjustment applications with no interviews.

The Trump administration has announced that EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 (but not EB-5) employment based adjustment applicants will now be interviewed. This will add another 115,000 applicants for USCIS staff to interview. This will create backlogs and, thus, more will apply via an American Consulate. This means it may take longer for immigrant visa interviews to be scheduled at American Consulates. While EB-5s make up only a small part of overall adjustments, the other employment based visa applicants may clog up the system a bit and slow it down. The impact of this change is a bit hard to predict as these cases are concentrated in certain countries and not all countries will have such increases.

One commenter believes EB-5 applicants will be interviewed at the I-829 stage. So far USCIS says they will occasionally interview an I-829 applicant.