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How long will it take to process your EB-5 green card petition?

Last year the processing times of EB-5 petitions drastically increased overnight, jumping from a range of 20.5 to 27 months to a range of 29 to 45.5 months. Today, the estimated processing time is between 46 and 74.5 months and for petition to remove conditions between 27 and 48.5 months.

One potentially positive development is that the USCIS has proposed significant changes in how it will prioritize the EB-5 petition adjudications. On January 29, 2020, the USCIS announced that starting March 31, 2020 it would no longer continue its “first-in first-out” approach to adjudications, and instead would shift to a visa availability approach. Applicants from countries where visas are immediately available will now be better able to use their approximate 700 visas annual per-country allocation of EB-5 visas.

In August 2014, the U.S. Department of State, announced the first instance of EB-5 visa unavailability in the EB-5 program’s history, affecting investors born in China. Until recently, three countries face significant EB-5 visa backlog: China, Vietnam, and India. Chinese EB-5 visa backlog rose to a 16.2 year wait prediction in an October 2019. Vietnamese investors were predicted to wait 7.1 years. Indian investors filing in October 2019 had roughly 6.7 years’ worth of EB-5 visas “in line” ahead of them. Now, the EB-5 visa backlog for Chinese investors is less than 5 years and 3 years for Vietnamese investors. There is no longer backlog for investors born in India.

Despite the large amount of registered China fifth preference demand, currently there are not enough applicants who are actively pursuing their EB-5 case to fully utilize the amount of numbers which are expected to be available under the annual limit. Further, the spread of COVID-19 could also sap visa demand along with suspending visa services. Long waits may also become commonplace for all future investors if Congress enacts country cap removal legislation. Chinese investors would stand to gain from country cap removal legislation, whereas rest of would face longer wait times.

Please note that this articles does not constitute a legal advice.  We provided some insights into EB-5 processing. If you would like to discuss if you may qualify for EB-5 investor green card, call our experienced EB-5 visa attorney at 480-425-2009 or schedule your consultation online.  

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New areas (TEA) allowing lower EB-5 investments

On November 21, 2019, new EB-5 regulations became effective. They brought some changes to the EB-5 program.

One of the likely consequence of the new EB-5 regulations is that the Targeted Employment Area (TEA) designation (enabling a lower investment threshold) will be harder to get and urban TEAs will be driven to lesser-developed locations.

In order to be designated as a TEA, the EB-5 project must be located in either a rural area or in a location that has high unemployment. 

Prior to the effective date of new EB-5 regulations, the TEA designation was made at state level and most states had very liberal TEA’s designation policies, even in economically robust urban zones. Consequently, more than 95% of EB-5 investments were made in TEA-located projects. Under the new EB-5 regulations, USCIS is no longer deferring
to TEA designations made by state and local governments and is
directly reviewing and determining the designation of high-unemployment TEAs.

Under the previous regulations, it was quite common to aggregate census tracts to create Regional Center EB-5 offerings even in some of the nation’s most high-priced neighborhoods. Census tract combination for high-unemployment TEAs is now much more restrictive: census tract aggregation is limited to the project tract(s) plus some or all of the tracts that are “directly adjacent” to the project tract. Utilizing census block groups (a census tract is made up of several block groups) is no longer allowed. 

Some EB-5 industry experts (analysts and economists) estimate that approximately two thirds of the projects that had qualified before will not qualify for TEA status under the revised standard.

Please note that this articles does not constitute a legal advice.  We outlined only one aspect of new EB-5 regulations and its consequences.  If you would like to get a green card through an investment (EB-5), call an experienced EB-5 immigration attorney at 480-425-2009 or schedule your consultation online.