What is the visa availability approach? 

It’s a change to how I-526 petitions will be prioritized for adjudication. At Rahbaran & Associates, we’ve created a blog separately for this topic here.

Prior to the new visa availability approach, I-526 petitions were processed on a first-in, first-out approach. This means that they use to be processed in the order that they were received.  Now, under this new visa availability approach, they are processed based on visa availability per country.

Potential EB-5 investors from countries where visas are immediately available will have their pending I-526 petitions prioritized. EB-5 investors from underrepresented or smaller countries will benefit from this new processing change.

What country or countries are affected by the processing change?

For decades, the majority of EB-5 visa demand came from China.

Since I-526 petitions were being processed in the order received, most of the I-526 petitions being processed came from Chinese investors due to pure volume. With this, Chinese demand for EB-5s far exceeded supply, and the USA using the first-in, first-out adjudication process, spent time and resources processing I-526 petitions for Chinese investors despite a limited supply of available visas for the Chinese. Under the new visa availability approach, these petitions will no longer be prioritized until visas become available again.

Which countries will benefit from the new visa availability approach?

According to the EB-5 stakeholder meeting in March, EB-5 investors from China are the only ones affected by the processing change.

Some speculated that India and Vietnam may also be affected, but it’s not the case for the near future. In fact, according to Charles Oppenheim, the Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, predicted that India, which currently has a visa backlog, will have a final action date on the visa bulletin by this summer of 2020.

On the other side, EB-5 investors who were born in countries where visas are immediately available will see their I-526 petitions prioritized regardless of when they filed their petitions.

Can I-526 petitions still be expedited?

The USCIS will continue to review expedite requests, and if/when approved, the EB-5 investor’s petition will be taken out of order for processing and immediately prioritized.

What key information does the State Department Visa Bulletin provide for EB-5 investors?

Chart A: Final Action Dates

This chart shows when an EB-5 investor may schedule an interview and be issued conditional permanent residence. There are currently only three countries facing visa backlogs: China, India, and Vietnam. EB-5 investors must see if their priority date is on or before the date listed in the chart. If so, they may proceed in the process and schedule an interview. All other countries remain current as of now.

Chart B: Dates for Filing

This chart is one-factor USCIS will use to determine which petitions will be prioritized under the new visa availability approach discussed here. All countries for April 20th, 2020 are current except for China. The dates for filing for Mainland China EB-5 investors is December 15, 2015 under the new approach. Applicants with a priority date earlier than the date listed in the chart may submit their visa application.

What is the current processing time for the I-526 petition at the Immigrant Investor Program Office?

The current processing time estimated range is approximately 30 months – 50 months.

For questions please contact us or get your EB-5 started here.