On September 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) released their October 2020 visa bulletin. In a typical year, the total number of visas allocated to the Employment-Based category is approximately 140,000 visas. Of that total, 7.1% are allocated for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5) for a normal yearly EB-5 total of approximately 9,940 visas.
The October visa bulletin provided great news to all EB-5 investors that have been waiting for visas. The bulletin shows that Employment-Based preferences are anticipated to be allocated approximately 261,500 visas, an all-time high to use within the fiscal year (FY) 2021. This figure allows for 18,567 visas (7.1% of the total) to be allocated to EB-5.
Of the 18,567 visas that will be available for EB-5 in FY 2021, 7% are available for each individual country. Countries that currently affected by retrogression and have a visa backlog, will have 1,300 visas available compared to the usual approximately 700. The excess of visas available for EB-5 for FY 2021 have the potential to reduce the wait time for countries that currently have a backlog – China, India, and Vietnam. However, for all of the visas to be used, the consulates will have to remain open and processing and issuing visas in a timely manner.
These extra visas for the Employment-Based preference resulted largely from consulates being closed and not processing all the Family-Based preference visas in FY 2020. Any unused visas in the Family Based preference in a fiscal year are allocated the following fiscal year to the Employment-Based preference category.
The recent slowdowns in USCIS adjudication could indicate that the vast majority of available visas this year will go to those applicants with an already approved I-526, as long as consulates remain open this year. There are ample families that that have already received a USCIS I-526 petition approval that could benefit from the influx of these 18,000 or more visas.