4/23 Visa Numbers (China, Vietnam, India, Brazil, S. Korea, Taiwan)

[10/30/2018 UPDATE: for more recent data and predictions, see my post AILA/IIUSA Forum Updates (Kendall, Oppenheim, visa availability)]

Visa Numbers Update

Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Controls Office at the U.S. Department of State, spoke about EB-5 visa numbers and allocation at the IIUSA conference on April 23. This post summarizes interesting data from his slides. (The tables pictured below are also in my increasingly untidy Backlog Calc Excel file. When I have time, I’ll reorganize the file and recalculate projections.) I’m relying on a partial video recording and reports from others for this post, not having heard Mr. Oppenheim’s talk in person. When someone at the conference posts a substantial report, I’ll link it here. As always, I welcome corrections. [Update: other reports on this presentation from IIUSA and Wolfsdorf Rosenthal.]

Highlights from Mr. Oppenheim’s presentation [with my commentary in brackets, and images showing my summaries of data points from the presentation]:

  • USCIS has picked up the pace on I-526 adjudication. The National Visa Center received 25% more EB-5 applicant petitions in 2017/2018 than 2016/2017. That reflects I-526 processing improvement (good news), and results in more people ready to claim available visas (bad news for the visa backlog).
  • Visas can be issued by Department of State through consular processing (for applicants residing outside the US) or USCIS through I-485 status adjustment (for applicants in the US). Historically most EB-5 visas have come through DOS, but we’re seeing a steady increase in visas through status adjustment: 991 in FY2015, 1,442 in FY2016, 1,676 in FY2017, and 952 already in the first six months of FY2018. This reminds us to keep an eye on what’s happening at USCIS as well as DOS, when tracking visa number demand.
  • Department of State has seen a dramatic increase in visa applications from people outside China. In just the first six months of FY2018, DOS issued 2,735 EB-5 visas to applicants from outside China – more than in the whole of the previous year. That increase in “rest of the world” visas can be bad news for China, because annual visas available to China depend on leftovers from the rest of the world. [My model estimates that the China line is 10 years long assuming 80% of annual visas available to China, and 15 years long if 50% of annual visas are left to China. Also, I wonder if the “rest of the world” bump could reflect IPO taking initiative to prioritize moving non-China I-526 petitions – an idea they suggested in November 2017.]
  • Based on growing demand, Vietnam, India, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan are on Mr. Oppenheim’s radar for potential to trigger the per-country cap and thus get held back with cut-off dates. Vietnam already has a final action date that Mr. Oppenheim expects to advance by several months in 2019 (but not make it current). He expects to set a final action date for India by June 2019 at latest, and for Brazil, South Korea, and (maybe) Taiwan in Summer 2019. The projected final action date for September 2019 is October 1, 2014 (worst case) or October 15, 2014 (best case) for China and other oversubscribed countries. [Cut-off dates for other countries is good news for China, because those countries get temporarily removed from the queue-cutting “rest of the world” pool, and instead stuck in line behind older Chinese applications for leftover visas.]
  • In the Q&A period, Mr. Oppenheim reportedly projected these EB-5 visa wait times: China 15 years, Vietnam 6 years, India 5 years, Brazil and South Korea 2 years. [This time indicates years from today to conditional permanent residence for people filing I-526 today. But these estimates are subject to change depending on future demand trends.]

Consider the lesson from China. EB-5 was still current for China throughout 2014; Chinese applicants didn’t start getting held back with a cut-off date until May 2015. But Chinese investors who filed I-526 back in FY2014 have been affected.  Applicants with 2014 priority dates started getting visas in September 2015 (per the Visa Bulletin) and will still be getting visas into 2019 (per Mr. Oppenheim’s predicted final action dates). That’s a lot of years just to issue conditional green cards to petitioners from one year.  Look at 2014, and then visualize how many years it will take to issue the visas to Chinese who filed I-526 in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, unless something changes. (See my graphic for visual reference.) If Chinese with 2014 priority dates are still in line for visas into the end of 2019, how long will a Chinese with a priority date of today have to wait for a visa? That tower of past petitions is a sobering fact for China, and also any potentially high-volume countries that may end up in line behind China. The prospect of unacceptable wait times creates urgency to advocate for more EB-5 visa numbers. As things are, we can’t keep attracting every year three to four times the number of investors who could eventually get visas in a year, or depend heavily on any one country given the per-country limits.

For additional discussion of factors that could change visa wait times for various countries, see my post I-526 and EB-5 visa wait times; country-specific effects of potential changes (June 18, 2018)

EB-5 Processing Times

Since late March, I’ve been tracking EB-5 forms on the new USCIS Processing Times page. So far the month range has remained unchanged for each form, while the “Case Inquiry Date” has advanced one day per day for each form. No evidence yet of human intervention to update the information, and I rather doubt the link to reality. But for the record, here’s how the system is currently set to auto-advance the “Case Inquiry Date”:

  • I-526 case inquiry date: today’s date minus 971 days (i.e. priority date plus 971 days is the date when one can start to inquire about the petition as being outside normal processing times)
  • I-829 case inquiry date: today’s date minus 893 days
  • I-924 case inquiry date: today’s date minus 663 days

FYI, of people who’ve filled out my I-526 processing experience Google form so far, a majority of those with approvals  in 2018 had priority dates in 2016, and some even in 2017. (Form results here.)  Apparently IPO isn’t simply processing petitions from 2015, as the published Processing Time Information would suggest.

New TEA Data

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has made its annual Spring release of employment data for the previous year, which means a new data set for calculating Targeted Employment Area qualification.  Impact DataSource explains what changed. To learn more, consider signing up for a webinar.

Other Resources

Speaking of webinars, note that the Council of Development Finance Agencies is hosting a course  designed to provide a substantial practical introduction to EB-5.

About Suzanne (www.lucidtext.com)
Suzanne Lazicki is a business plan writer, EB-5 expert, and founder of Lucid Professional Writing. Contact me at suzanne@lucidtext.com (626) 660-4030.

41 Responses to 4/23 Visa Numbers (China, Vietnam, India, Brazil, S. Korea, Taiwan)

  1. AB says:

    Great write up as always! I’m just curious about the I-485 inventory as of April 2018 that was released recently. It shows that there are several pending 485s with priority dates in 2018 (some even in March 2018). Does this mean USCIS approved some 526 in under a month? Also, specifically for India, it shows many pending 485s in the latter half of 2017 and early 2018, but nothing from before. Why might this be?

    • I haven’t commented on those those pending I-485 reports from USCIS because I noticed them for the first time early this morning, but indeed the priority date detail is very interesting. (https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/pending-employment-based-i-485-inventory) Apparently USCIS is indeed approving some I-526 in less than a month. India may show few pending I-485 because Indian I-485 are approved fairly promptly upon receipt, so don’t stay pending. And/or USCIS is adjudicating petitions from different countries on a different schedule.

      • Kishore says:

        OP : How is the i-485 inventory related to people’s priority date ? i-485 inventory is the month they filed i-485. How does one come to conclusion that Indian EB5 i-526 were approved in less time from i-485 inventory.

      • See this link, which explains how to read the priority date information in the pending I-485 reports: https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/questions-answers-pending-employment-based-form-i-485-inventory

      • Kishore says:

        So the i-485 inventory isnt actually the number of people who filed their i-485 in calendar month rather its the priority date of number of candidates ? that is one whopping confusion.

      • Rommy says:

        Thank you again for this information , In published 485 data , I see numbers (Total 18) available for mainland china for year 2018 , How that can be possible since cut off data is already being enforced for this county ?

      • AB says:

        @Rommy – 485 inventory is only for people in the US who are adjusting status. It does not include the vast majority of people who are applying for consular processing.

      • Rommy — I’m confused now too. These I-485 reports just show pending I-485, not visas issued, but still it’s odd to see pending China I-485 for dates in advance of the cut-off date. I was forgetting I-485 can’t be filed until a visa number is available, as indicated by the Visa Bulletin. This Q&A from the FAQ may be relevant to the EB-5 category as well.

        Q: Why were there pending cases listed with priority dates after August 2007 when the Visa Bulletin priority dates was never beyond August 2007?

        A: We have reviewed the source data for the inventory and have determined that a number of errors contributed to the appearance of cases with a 2008 or 2009 priority date in countries and preferences for which the priority date has not advanced beyond 2007 in the DOS Visa Bulletin. First, several of these cases had more than one approved I-140, and, rather than list the case by the earlier priority date, we erroneously listed the case by the later priority date. Several more cases were cross-chargeable to a non-retrogressed country but were listed under the retrogressed country. Finally, a handful of cases involved simple data-entry errors. (https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/questions-answers-pending-employment-based-form-i-485-inventory)

      • Kishore says:

        I think the i-458 inventory numbers are Balloony numbers plucked out from thin air. Surely they cant be interpreted as anything but random numbers. I highly doubt that the numbers are any where close to being correct.

        I-485 cannot be filed unless i-526 is approved and these clearly are not i-526 approved + i-485 filed cases and neither are they i-526 approved numbers.

      • Rommy says:

        Hi Suzanne, We have pending EB5 application on my wife’s name and I have my own approved I 140 in EB2 , In future if a cut off date applies to us , do you know if we can use my priority to her application to file I 485 ? Is there a possibility of this ?

      • Kishore says:

        @Rommy You cannot port your date from EB2 to EB5.

      • Rommy says:

        On Approved EB2 , I am a primary, and on Pending I 526 , My wife is primary , still I can port my EB2 priority to hers I 526?

      • Rommy says:

        @Kishore, Pls ignore 2nd question, Did not read , NOT 🙂

  2. An says:

    Great analysis of the ‘results here’! Do you have a same analysis for I829 Google form?

  3. Joggi says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    Great work, I am wondering that as USCIS has picked up the pace on I-526 adjudication, so applicants from other countries’s approval process will be faster?
    I am from Pakistan and submitted my petition on Dec 8, 2017 in approved exampler project.

    • I can’t see enough of a pattern in recent processing times to make predictions, but certainly some people are getting relatively fast approval. Hope you are one of the lucky ones! But best prepare to be unlucky, just in case.

  4. Tony Raymond says:

    Hello Suzanne,

    Thank you for sharing such important and real-time information! I have a question regarding taking 15 years to issue conditional green card to China investors. Does it roughly mean priority date plus 15 years would be the time for us to file Status Adjustment even if the priority date goes back to Sep 2015? In other words, early priority date by and large would not get less waiting time than 15 years?

    Thanks and Regards

    • I didn’t hear Charlie’s quote for myself, but I’m sure he didn’t mean that. Within a country, people get visas in order by priority date (once they’re documentarily qualified). So someone from China who filed in 2015 will get a visa long before the China-born investor who filed in 2017. I assume that Charlie’s wait time estimates were for people filing now, but welcome insights from anyone who heard the Q&A live.

      • Tony Raymond says:

        Thank you Suzanne. Can I assume the estimated years to grant visas or all people already in the system from your model is not impacted by priority date?

  5. Vlad says:

    Suzanne, thank you for nice update. Can I ask to predict when is the highest possibility to receive approval for petition filed in June 2016 by UK citizen? I hope it’s summer 2018? I understand it’s not certain, just highest possibility?

    • Just based on dividing pending petitions by average adjudication rate, I would indeed expect probability to favor Q2/Q3 2018 approval for a petition filed at the end of Q2 2016.

    • Barlas Tavil says:

      We are from Turkey, filed our EB5 petition in Nov 9, 2016 and got approved in March 23, 2018. That was a nice surprise because we had prepared ourselves for a late 2018 and even early 2019 approval. Stay positive and hang in there 🙂

  6. Vietnamese Investor says:

    Thank you Suzanne for your wonderful analysis, I am an investor from Vietnam filing I-526 in May 2017, I was disappointed that Vietnam is now in the backlog due to recent increase of petitions. Your tabulation shows that in early of fiscal 2019 year we will be out of the backlog and soon come back to the stagnant waiting list again. Could you predict how much more time I have to wait to get the Visa with the assumption that my I-526 petition is approved after 2 years of filing (hopefully I-526 approved in May 2019). Can you guess the Final Action date for Vietnam by October 2019 and so on?

  7. NS says:

    Thank you Suzanne for excellent content here. I’m looking for specific data that i couldn’t get.
    Is there an accurate/predicted number of I-526 applications for India & Vietnam for FY17 & FY18* (6 months) available? I see the FY15 & FY16 I-526 application count in your blog. For India it is 239 & 354 for FY’15 & FY’16. Similarly for Vietnam it is 289 & 404 for FY’15 & FY’16.
    If i have the count for I-526 application, I could further try to predict Visa demand for both India & Vietnam and hence the impact for FY19, FY’20, FY’21, FY’22. Based on analysis, it would help understand the impact of applying EB5 today.

    • This data would be great to have, but we depend on getting it from USCIS via Freedom of Information Act request. I’m sure IIUSA has a FOIA request pending, but those can take a long time to process. Alternatively, you could follow the news about EB-5 in India, and the size of projects being promoted there, to guess at the number of petitions likely being filed.

      • techie2aggie says:

        Most Indians who are applying are already in the US on H1. This is the trend we are seeing in our telegram group.
        Very few from India.

      • NS says:

        Thanks Suzzane

        @techi2aggie – can you share more about this group? I’m on H1B like you said 🙂

  8. NS says:

    Based on the video (around 11m.30s), it seemed that Charlie Oppenheim said the final action date for India will be enforced “no later than June, potentially earlier”. It your doc, its say Q2’19. Is there more background information or am i missing something?

  9. Vlad says:

    I wonder what is going on with monthly processing times updates? Did they forget about them? Or made some mistake in new website system and now it does not work properly? Can we let them know that there are no updates? Maybe they don’t know? Thank you.

    • They must know that they’re free from the burden of intentionally updating processing times. I bet they’re congratulating themselves on this clever system, with a date range so broad that it will be generally applicable for a long time, and an automatically advancing case inquiry date.

  10. Investor says:

    Stats are out for first quarter. Processed less i829 than received which means a further delay. Will be over 3 years by the end of this year if it keeps going like this!

  11. MM says:

    Thank you for the maintaining this blog, it is by far the most reliable source for eb5 policy related unbiased material.

    In the fourth bullet point, you noted that India is expected to have a final action date by June 2019 at the latest. The video of Charles Oppenheim speaking at IIUSA that you shared a Dropbox link to (minute 12 onwards) seems to suggest that he meant June of this year. Is that your understanding too, or could I be misinterpreting that?

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