COVID and the EB-5 Visa Program

Whilst the world recoils from the impact COVID-19 had on almost every aspect of our lives, it does continue to turn. This means disruption to travel, trade, economies, and of course immigration. EB-5 Executive Order Exclusion For the EB-5 program, there are set-backs, although there are also some positives to take from the situation. During the pandemic, President Trump announced an executive order banning entry to anyone posing a risk to the US labour market. The executive order excluded just one employment-based visa, the EB-5. This means in a time when employment-based immigration has all but halted, the EB-5 visas will continue to be processed. There is still a backlog for applications from China and Vietnam, however, the rest of the world could now see shorter waiting times on pending I-526 petitions. With fewer visa applications from other programs or indeed complete suspensions, the USCIS (U.S Citizenship and Immigration Service) has more time to work through the EB-5 applications. This presents a greater chance of acceptance for applicants. Another benefit for the EB-5 program is the over-spill of unused visas from other programs. Each visa program, including both family and employment-type visas, have a fiscal year quota. When the quota is not met, a percentage is passed on to other programs. For example, unused family-based visas are allocated to employment-based visas, of which 7.1% go to the EB-5 program. With immigration down across the board for 2020, there were fewer EB-5 visas accepted in 2020. There were also more allocated to the program due to the losses in other areas. Therefore 2021 could see a huge boost for the program’s numbers. Job Creation Worries Some of the worries for the EB-5 program lie in the job creation criteria. The investment required for the program stipulates that it must create ten new jobs with a minimum of thirty-five-hour week contracts. With the hospitality and retail industries suffering as a result of the pandemic, both proposed and current EB-5 projects will undoubtedly suffer. The light at the end of the tunnel, of course, is the hope that as the world turns a corner on the pandemic a new lease of life will be found in the hospitality and construction industries. Amidst the lockdowns, many projects continue to push forward with their construction looking to meet proposed timelines with as little delay as possible. Boost for 2021 In 2019 the EB-5 program had seen increases in the investment requirement from $500,000 to $900,000 and $1 million to $1,800,000. Coupled with the pandemic, political unrest, and travel restrictions only half of the program’s quota was met. This left around 4,200 applications unfulfilled. The good news is that in 2021 there will be 18,567 EB-5 visas available, nearly double the usual figure. The uncertainty surrounding travel and immigration throughout 2021 has led to speculation surrounding the possibility of further allocations in 2022. These additional allocations will not only increase demand for the program but help shift the backlog of applications from China and Vietnam substantially. The two EB-5 programs currently available are the UNITED STATES EB-5 DIRECT INVESTMENT PROGRAM and the UNITED STATES EB-5 REGIONAL CENTER PROGRAM, if you require any advice please contact us via our website and we will be more than happy to assist you with your quest.    

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