FY2019 EB-5 Visa Stats by Country

The Report of the Visa Office 2019 has been published, with EB-5 visa statistics in Table VI Part IV (visas issued through consular processing) and Table V Part 3 (consular processing plus I-485 status adjustment).  The statistics reflect number of green cards issued for conditional permanent residence by country of origin.

In a sense this is old news – not only because Charles Oppenheim summarized this data at the IIUSA conference last October, but also because EB-5 visas issued in FY2019 reflect EB-5 investment decisions made at least two years ago (for most countries, considering I-526 processing times) or five years ago (for China, considering the visa bulletin). To understand current EB-5 demand, we need per-country I-526 data from the beginning of the process. But USCIS resists disclosing such I-526 data, so we make do with visa statistics that reflect usage midway through the EB-5 process.

A few questions that occur to me, as I look at visa statistics:

  • How close did Department of State get to its goal of issuing the total visas available for the year under numerical limits?
  • How are EB-5 applicants divided between people living abroad and people already in the US? What populations in the United States are using EB-5 to adjust status?
  • Beyond the few top countries, how is the EB-5 market diversifying or concentrating?
  • How many EB-5 visas are actually going to investors, and how many to spouses and children?
  • Which data points deserve a film contract?

The EB-5 numerical limit is not a fixed number, but 7.1% of a total number of EB visas that varies each year, further divided by the 7% per-country cap. The EB numerical limit for FY19 was 141,918 visas, which put the EB-5 share for FY19 at 10,076 visas, and the individual country share at 705 visas. In practice, it’s not possible to hit the targets exactly. In FY2019, DOS unluckily undershot the worldwide target (issuing only 9,478 total EB-5 visas) but slightly overshot the per-country target for India and Vietnam (which each ended up with more than 705 visas).  The worldwide visa numbers don’t reflect lack of demand (there were plenty of visa applications left pending at the end of the year), but complications in the process (p. 2-3 of this article explains some reasons).

US entrepreneurs promoting EB-5 investments may wonder: should I buy plane tickets, or can I find potential EB-5 investors in my own back yard? Visa statistics for consular processing vs adjustment of status can help answer this question. The data shows, for example, that nearly half of South Americans who received EB-5 visas in FY19 were not living in the South America, but already residing in the US on different visas. Likewise 31% of the EB-5 visas to Europeans, and 34% of those to Indians, went through status adjustment in the U.S. By contrast, 90% of EB-5 visas issued to China-born people in FY19 went through consular processing. (But China being China, even the 10% from status adjustment in the U.S. is still a large number: 433 people). Africans got a record (for Africa) 334 visas in FY2019, most of them issued abroad.

The Report of the Visa Office does not itemize visas by principals and derivatives, but the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics does. I’ve added a pie chart below with the most recent data (2018) as a reminder that the 10,000 or so annual EB-5 visas do not – as Congress intended – support 10,000 investments in the US economy, or 100,000 jobs. Because Department of State believes that it needs to fit whole families into the numerical limit, the EB-5 quota is only able to incentivize around 3,300 investments annually. In FY2018, just 3,363 EB-5 visas went to principals i.e. EB-5 investors. The majority of EB-5 visas (42%) went to children. (Interestingly, nearly a third of EB-5 applicants in FY18 apparently immigrated without spouses.)

Back to the Report of the Visa Office, FY2019 was similar to FY2018 in terms of country diversification, with similar regional distribution and number of countries contributing to the visa total.  Growing diversification was more evident between FY17 and FY18. The number of visas leftover for Chinese dropped significantly between FY17 (about 7,500) and FY18 (about 4,500), but remained about the same in FY19 (about 4,300). (That could change in FY21, if the visa availability approach succeeds in pushing a larger volume of rest-of-world applicants out of I-526 to the visa stage.)

I would like to see the film about the high-net-worth Chadians and North Koreans who managed to connect with EB-5 projects, document source of funds, and secure EB-5 visas in FY2019. And all those ones promise poignant stories – I’m curious about that one Croat, the one Kazahk, the one Surinamese, and the lone Kiwi who immigrated through EB-5 in FY19.

A few charts to highlight features of interest to me.

And finally, a reminder that visas can only be issued to people with active visa applications. The March 2020 visa bulletin ends with a reminder to Chinese with I-526 approval to get documentarily qualified at NVC, or risk losing place in line. The China Final Action date just jumped five months — not due to lack of Chinese with approved I-526, but due to lack of Chinese eligible to be called for a visa interview.

There has been a very rapid advancement of the China-mainland born fifth preference final action date for the month of March. This action has been taken in an effort to generate an increased level of demand. Despite the large amount of registered China fifth preference demand, currently there are not enough applicants who are actively pursuing final action on their case to fully utilize the amount of numbers which are expected to be available under the annual limit.
Once large numbers of applicants do begin to have their cases brought to final action, some type of corrective action may be required to control number use within the annual limit. It is important to remember that applicants who are entitled to immigrant status become documentarily qualified, and potentially eligible for interview, at their own initiative and convenience. By no means has every applicant with a priority date earlier than a prevailing final action date been processed for final visa action.

This brochure from DOS gives an overview of the NVC process and what it means to be documentarily qualified.

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.

27 Responses to FY2019 EB-5 Visa Stats by Country

  1. DK says:

    Thank you Suzanne for this great post!! Couple Questions: Is China Filling Date jumped nearly seven months caused by the same reason as Final Action Date jump? Is “lack of Chinese eligible to be called for a visa interview” caused by temporary closure of US Consulate in China due to Corona-virus? Will Final Action Date/Filing Date jump back, once US Consulate in China open and take interviews?

    • US consulate closure must have an impact certainly, but that’s not the issue identified in the visa bulletin. Coronavirus has temporarily delayed interviews, but not (one hopes) caused many fewer people to be ready for an interview. The visa bulletin specifically identifies the issue of readiness: “not enough applicants who are actively pursuing final action on their case,” and reminds applicants that the ball is in their court to get documentarily qualified. If fewer people are ready through consular processing, that means the window can open wider to admit more people through adjustment of status. I updated the post to copy the entire visa bulletin note.

    • Update: it turns out you are right — the visa bulletin jumps are due to the coronavirus. And there’s a risk that the consulate shut-down will affect total visas issued to China. On Friday’s USCIS EB-5 stakeholder meeting, a caller asked Charles Oppenheim about the impact of the current shutdown of consular processing in China due to COVID-19, and whether that could result in EB-5 visas that would have been given to China going to Vietnam instead. Oppenheim said: “This is a very unique situation where there is not a lack of applicants which is preventing the numbers from being used, but the situation where at this time the consulate is closed. So this will continue to be monitored throughout the year, and we’ll just have to do the best we can. But again, if it does appear that all the numbers would not be used, then we would go to the next country in line, which would be Vietnam, which is oversubscribed.” And he did not go on to comment on the impact of other country’s more recent consulate closures, and possible interruption of operations in the US from COVID-19.

  2. Annabelle says:

    Thank you Suzanne, a very good analysis.
    The result shows that, visas to other than China are increasing trendily, which means the 331 USCIS policy is hurting Chinese applicants apparently!
    USCIS is breaking the basic fairness again.

    • To me the FY2019 and FY2018 visa totals for China do not look too different. But I do expect drops in visas issued to China in FY2020 and especially FY2021, with the visa availability approach being designed to maximize rest-of-world visa usage. Maybe Charles Oppenheim is being kind to China with the March 2020 visa bulletin, trying to hurry up and issue the visas that had been anticipated for China in FY2020 before the VAR has a chance to take effect.
      It is ironic that USCIS cited “fairness” and “Congressional intent” when introducing the visa availability approach, when Congress itself has been advancing a bill that defines “fairness” for immigrants in just the opposite manner, in terms of FIFO.

      • luckyy says:

        Correct me if I am thinking wrong, feel like that the visa availability approach not hurting Chinese too much because most of the I526 before 2017 have been approved. For those countries that have availabilities, still have annual limit of 700+.

        Would love to hear your opinion: do you think there will still be lack of demand/qualified Chinese applicants after the advance in both filling date and final action date?

        If so, will they further advance the dates or give the slots to other countries?

        • Chinese with pending I-526 may suffer some harm from lengthened I-526 processing times, but the major damage to China will be from reduced visa availability. China depends on the number of visas leftover after rest-of-the-world demand. The visa availability approach aims to maximize rest-of-the-world demand at the visa stage. There are currently over 7,000 ROW I-526 pending at USCIS. If USCIS advances all those promptly to the visa stage, they’ll take all available visas for two years at least, with zero leftover for China.

          • luckyy says:

            Hi Suzanne,

            Thank you for the explanation.

            The point I am confused is that, even if they maximize the rest of world demand, no country could exceed the annual limit of 7.1%, India, Vietnam’s pending I 526 would also be affected since they don’t have availability either. In this way, how could these 7000 be processed in single 1-2 year?

          • You are right — I shouldn’t have referenced the full 7,000+, since Vietnamese and Indians with recent priority dates would also be excluded by a visa availability approach. But if USCIS approves even 4,000 ROW petitions, that will affect China visa availability. I guess the good news is that with the price increase, ROW volume will likely taper off once pre-2020 petitions are through the system.

    • kishore says:

      Its pretty fair. There is a just a over whelming Chinese demand in Eb5 and no amount of visa can help unless the visa reform happens

  3. Martin Lawler says:

    What is your address………



    Lawler & Lawler Martin J. Lawler
    Law Offices 505 Sansome Street, Suite 1250
    San Francisco, CA 94111
    P: 415.391.2010 / http://www.aboutvisas.com

  4. Jorge says:

    Dear Suzanne,

    my I-526 petition is dated December 18, 2018. As a Mexican national investing through EB-5 i5 regional center (TEA), do you think I will get approved sometime this year? When I see the Visa Bulletin for March 2020, I see “current” under Mexico and EB5 i5 so I am not so sure of how to read these updates.

    thanks in advance.


    • your I-526 time is independent of Mexico’s status in the visa bulletin — depends on timing at USCIS. I’ll be better able to estimate I-526 timing after USCIS explains its new system next month. Approval for your petition this year is likely, but timing depends on volumes.

  5. Pingback: FY 2019 EB-5 Visa Statistics - Behring Companies

  6. David Yoo says:

    Hi Suzanne, thank you for your great article. You can always provide insight into EB5 investment.

    USCIS can approve around 500 to 750 cases every quarter. After the visa availability approach implements, each year Rest of World applicants can get around 2000 to 3000 cases, resulting in an overwhelming number of visas waiting to be approved by NVC. Does it mean China, India and Vietnam can only get no or just slightly more than 7 per cent of total visas?

    • China, India, and Vietnam (and South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil and any other country) will indeed continue to be limited to 7% each, so long as there’s sufficient demand to claim the entire EB-5 quota. At least China won’t get less than 7 percent, since Charles Oppenheim said the Chinese Student Protection Act offset is nearly complete. But China will certainly get fewer visas than it would have received if USCIS stayed with FIFO I-526 processing. If worldwide demand can’t meet the limit without some country exceeding 7%, then China will continue to be the one to exceed, since China has the earliest priority dates.

      • David Yoo says:

        Thank you for your explanation. But why India and Vietnam can get (slightly) more than 7 per cent visas? They certainly have later priority dates.

        • The slightly-over 7% in FY2019 would have been unintended. That IIUSA article I linked in the post talks about why the number of visas actually issued tends to differ from the target. Basically, the Visa Control Office sending visa numbers to consulates and USCIS is like an airline overbooking based on a calculation of how many people typically don’t make the flight — but if everyone does, then the limit gets exceeded.

  7. Investor says:

    Unless the policy has already been implemented months ago, I don’t expect there is any significant impact on FY2020. For any investor who receives approval in April, it takes 3-6 months or even longer to go through the NVC process, and up to a year for I-485 process. Therefore, investors who have I-526s approved after March won’t be “ready for interview” until August or September. Since you need to be ready for interview in August in order to be put on the calendar for FY20. Charlie Oppenheim sets the visa bulletin strictly based on “how many people are really ready for interview now”, not “how many people have I-526 approved”. Therefore USCIS new policy is unlikely to generate any impact to FY2020 visa usages. There will be a much bigger impact in FY2021 for sure.

  8. hariomshelly says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    I’m from India n I applied in December 2018 in EB5 through regional centre (TEA)…..as per new system of processing i526 petitions….acc. to u how time it will take to adjudicate my petition?

    • Karan says:

      Hello Suzanne,

      I too am from India and I applied for my EB5 via the regional center (TEA) route and got a receipt date of August 30 , 2018. As per the new visa processing approach, will my I-526 adjudication perhaps take longer? My application is still not adjudicated as of Feb 2020.

      • I hope to have a better answer to these questions after March 13, when USCIS may further explain their plans for I-526 processing under the visa availability approach.

      • powerofdreams7 says:

        Hi Karan,

        I have a date of Sept 27, 2018 and I’m in the same boat as you. I guess I can expect to hear about my case a few weeks after you receive a response!


  9. Dg Patel says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    I’m from India n I applied in october 2018 in EB5 through regional centre (TEA)…..as per new system of processing i526 petitions….acc. to u How time it will take to adjudicate my petition?

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