EB-5 process illustration (Visa Bulletin questions)

The Visa Bulletin exists to provide crowd control for the visa process. But it’s complicated – even for Department of State apparently, as they’re currently over a week late with the November 2020 visa bulletin. What’s happening behind the scenes, as DOS tries to decide what to put in the visa bulletin?

The visa process and timing for EB-5 are complicated by a multi-stage and multi-constraint process. The Visa Bulletin exercises a measure of control by publishing filing and final action dates that help to pace visa demand to match available supply. But knowing supply and demand is not enough to guess the visa bulletin, thanks to other factors at work.

In an attempt to add some clarity, I made a visual to illustrate the stages and constraints that determine what happens with the visa bulletin and EB-5 visa wait times. (This is part of my still forth-coming but belated webinar on China EB-5 visa timing – my apologies to those who have been waiting patiently.)  I hope that this image can help to orient readers and replace a thousand words of explanation.

Points I particularly want to make with this image:

  1. Getting a green card is roughly a two-stage process (first I-526 petition, then visa application), but includes five places where an in-process EB-5 applicant could be at any given time. To estimate visa wait times, which depend on total EB-5 demand, one should count applicants in all five places. For the visa bulletin, which depends on currently-eligible EB-5 visa demand, Department of State just looks at people in four places. DOS does not count pending I-526 for visa bulletin analysis, since this population can’t practically proceed to application filing or final action yet, lacking I-526 approval.
  2. The visa bulletin filing and final action dates serve as constraints to control the flow of people through the EB-5 process, but they’re not the only constraints at work. USCIS processing productivity also makes a significant difference in determining who gets to move to final action and when. And these days, COVID-19-justified shutdowns can block or expedite final action for individuals in practice.

Application to timing questions:

  • My priority date is available or current in the visa bulletin — why hasn’t my I-526 or I-485 been approved? Because the visa bulletin is not the only constraint. USCIS capacity and willingness to process petitions can also slow the process, even for petitions with visas available.
  • Why have India and Vietnam been getting different visa bulletin treatment despite having about the same predictions for total visa wait time? The wait time predictions for India and Vietnam in 2019 were about the same because they had about the same total number of people in process. But — at different stages. Many Vietnamese have approved I-526, and thus in the stage where the visa bulletin controls their forward movement. Meanwhile, many of the Indians still have pending I-526 – thus still out-of-range for the visa bulletin. Therefore, recent visa bulletins have been tight for Vietnam but loose for India.
  • Does the relaxed visa bulletin for India mean that total visa wait times for India have shortened? Not for everyone. The current visa bulletin needn’t account for the thousands of Indians with pending I-526, but those thousands still exist. Most will eventually get I-526 approval, one trusts, thus expanding the visa-stage queue and triggering future visa bulletin movement.
  • Can total EB-5 visa demand be estimated by adding applications pending at the National Visa Center to applicants associated with pending I-526? Yes, as an approximation. But keep in mind that this method counts two of the five stations where applicants can be at any given time. This reminder is particularly important for China timing estimates, which have risked undercounting demand.
  • Does the visa bulletin affect everyone at the visa stage equally? Not necessarily, because the visa stage is divided into groups with different circumstances. Applicants at the National Visa Center and on I-485 might react equally in a normal year, but not in 2020, when COVID-19 precautions have blocked final action for consular processing but not status adjustment. If DOS does advance visa bulletin final action dates now, it will practically only help I-485, while potentially disadvantaging visa applicants dependent on closed consulates.
  • Why is Department of State still sweating over the November 2020 visa bulletin? Because it’s tough to create order right now in the visa process. Should DOS relax the visa bulletin to let U.S.-based applicants go full steam ahead, with the benefit of maximizing visa usage in a heavy supply year but the disadvantage of leaving applicants abroad behind, and risking retrogression? Or should DOS tighten the visa bulletin constraint, and thus help keep an even playing field and avoid future retrogression — but at the cost of letting visas go unclaimed? How do they balance the effect of the visa bulletin constraints with the effect of constraints outside their control: the pandemic, USCIS productivity, and USCIS willingness to advance documents through the process? Political winds may also be a factor. In the July 29, 2020 Hearing on USCIS Oversight, Rep. Zoe Lofgren mentioned that she had received complaints of administration officials overruling career civil servants with respect to the visa bulletin. No doubt Stephen Miller is motivated to do whatever he can to ensure that FY2021 does not fulfill its potential as a record year for EB visas issued. Congress has also flirted recently with changing the most important process constraint — the number of annual visas available. There’s still the president’s Executive Order on Hong Kong, yet to be interpreted and also possibly a sticking point. But I believe that the career civil servants are currently still working hard to navigate very complicated terrain in the fairest possible way.

UPDATE: The November 2020 visa bulletin finally published on 10/29/2020 has no surprises — same wording as usual, and dates consistent with the October 2020 bulletin.  The China cut-off dates remain specifically for “China-Mainland born.” Good job standing up for law and order, civil servants.

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.

54 Responses to EB-5 process illustration (Visa Bulletin questions)

  1. Johnny says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    How about Hong Kong born EB-5 applicants? Would the existing applicants be grandfathered? Or they would all need to join the mainland China backlog? Thanks!

    Johnny

    • The Department of State has still not interpreted or applied the executive order, so far as I have seen. As soon as they do, I’ll report on the blog.

      • Johnny Lok says:

        Thanks Suzanne! Every month is like a nightmare for an existing Hong Kong applicant like me! We submitted on 21 Dec 2018, and still hear nothing back from USCIS. As you know, are they still processing existing applications from Hong Kong or indeed have put them aside like what happened to those mainland Chinese applicants? Thanks!

        • USCIS can’t have put Hong Kong I-526 aside if they are following the policy they set for themselves to be guided by the visa bulletin Chart B. The visa bulletin Chart B still clearly specifies that it applies to Mainland China applicants.

          • Johnny says:

            Appreciated! Considering USCIS is already handling applications received in Aug 2018, trust they would soon move forward to Dec 2018. Cheers

    • The November 2020 Visa Bulletin looks like a good sign, to me, keeping the language “China mainland-born.” The Hong Kong issue was reportedly a point of contention holding up the visa bulletin, and it seems that the pro-Hong-Kong-pro-following-the-law faction is still winning so far.

  2. techie2aggie says:

    When will consulates open in India. This is ridiculous. Business is as usual but with caution. About time Consulates open up..

  3. stuck458 says:

    But still confuses why i485 applications with PD current for months, are stuck in processing.

    • Because the visa bulletin is not the only constraint. USCIS processing capacity and decisions are also a constraint.

      • Web says:

        I can confirm from the data I have that USCIS has nearly completed the processing of July 2018 PD I526 (out of around 270 applications, ~150 processed, rest are probably China and Vietnam) and have started processing August 2018 applications. In fact I see a few mid august 2018 PD’s just processed today. Will continue monitoring the data. Does seem like USCIS is moving.

        • Thanks for sharing! What is the source of your data?

        • VJ says:

          Interesting. I have a PD of 06/29/2018, India applicant, currently residing in the U.S. but the case status still hasn’t moved an inch 🙂

          • Web says:

            That is very weird. There were 13 applications on June 29th. 7 have been processed. I assumed the rest for China and Vietnam. You should be getting an answer in the next week. 3 applications with June 29th PD were processed on October 24th (all three got RFE).

          • By the way keep in mind that Vietnam I-526 have yet to be tabled by the visa availability approach. USCIS said they would refer, when assigning I-526, to Visa Bulletin Chart B, which has remained current for Vietnam since April 2020. Only China has not been current in Chart B since April.
            I assume that your data is from checking case status for a range of receipt numbers, but you don’t have to discuss here.

          • Web says:

            These are the receipts I have pending for June 29th, I assume one of them is yours (though occasionally one or two cases may slip through the cracks):
            WAC1890311569,WAC1890311604,WAC1890311606,WAC1890311645,WAC1890311648,WAC1890311670.
            Do let me know if none of these are yours, as that may indicate I am missing some.

          • CG says:

            Hello Web, my priority date is 09/07/2018 and receipt number is WAC1890382088. I am from India and will be applying for the EB-5 Visa at the Consulate in Mumbai. Do you see my I-526 getting approved anytime soon? Thanks for your advice in advance!

          • Web says:

            @CG: My best guess would be within the next 2 months at current processing speed. But Suzanne has a consulting service I believe which probably can provide you a much better estimate.

          • Web — go ahead and answer from your dataset if you don’t mind. I limit myself from using receipt mining, so I don’t have input from that perspective. My timing consultation based on officially-reported and petitioner-reported data is currently limited by how long it’s been since USCIS reported anything.

          • Web says:

            Sure Suzanne! Over the next two weeks I will try and publish my findings on processing info through charts and graphs and publish the link here. I have gathered a limited set of data (end of June through end of September as the gather is rather labor intensive) but it should be insightful for everyone hopefully.

          • CG says:

            @Web, thanks so much, feeling hopeful :-)! While consulates in India are closed, the one in Mumbai is giving out visas at least for basic B1/B2 and F1 needs, not sure about EB-5 though… so am keeping fingers crossed.. looking forward to your analysis on processing info. One question – is it possible that USCIS has kicked into action with the new fiscal year? Any other reason?

            @Suzanne – can’t thank you enough for this blog page. I’ve been following it since Dec 2018, and this is the only place where one gets some indication on EB-5 progress whether good or bad. Can’t thank you enough 🙏🙏…

          • KumarD says:

            I am not surprised, my I485 PD Dec 2017 India applicant. My application has in under processing for 34 months, no RFE or no response on any kind of inquiry from Dept. Not even our EAD’s are approved.

            Web, Is there any suggestion for me. Thankyou.

          • Have you tried inquiry through Congressional reps and the Ombudsman? I’ve heard that helping in some cases.

          • VJ says:

            Yes Web!
            My receipt number is listed as one of those pending for June 29th.
            I wonder what that means, though. Do they process in order at all?

        • renag21 says:

          Thank you for this good news! Please keep us updated.

          • VJ says:

            Yes!
            My receipt number is listed as one of those pending for June 29th.
            I wonder what that means, though. Do they process in order at all?

        • renag21 says:

          Thanks for the good news! Please keep us updated.

        • AF says:

          I am from India and my application date for I 526 is May 2018, no response from USCIS
          Really frustrated and don’t know what to do

          • Web says:

            This seems like uscis is deliberately not processing applications from India at the same speed as other countries. Because they have started processing august applications. Clearly first in first out is not followed. They need to be sued.

        • stuck458 says:

          Hey Web
          Do you have similar data for i485 processing?

          • Web says:

            Unfortunately as of now I do not. But I will try expand the scope over the next few months.

          • Sk says:

            Hi Web,

            We are from india and applied for I-526 in September 2019, there was no chance yet, do you think there will be any moment soon? Or what do you think could be priority date?

  4. TK says:

    Hi Web, Thanks for sharing!
    Based on the data you’ve collected, how many applications does IPO seem to be processing per day? Thanks again!

  5. Amy says:

    Hi Suzanne – do we expect India to retrogress with the Nov bulletin?

  6. Anna says:

    Thank You Suzanne for your great work as always.

    Hi Web – Thank You so much for sharing the information on i526 processing.

    Could you please share by when to expect application processing for priority date 12/06/2018 Indian applicant, living in the US.

  7. Justina says:

    Hi Suzanne – do we expect any progress in next a few months with the Chart B for China-mainland EB5? Thank you!

  8. AS says:

    @ web plz email me ur email to fakeid4mrsingh@gmail.com
    Thanks and appreciated.

    • Hanei (SM) says:

      Hi Web,
      Thanks for helping EB5 community.
      My priority date is 14 June 2018 and receipt number is WAC 18-904-00848. I have county of Chargeability “India” and will be applying for the EB-5 Visa at the Consulate in Mumbai. Do you see my I-526 being approved anytime soon? Thanks for your help in advance.
      SM

  9. Vekbat says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    Why are they taking so long to release q3 2020 data for I-526. This is just absurd.

    Thanks

  10. Mitha says:

    Our PD date is March 21, 2018.India Applicant. I will be applying for adjustment of status if approved. I haven’t heard anything back from USCIS. My WAC number is WACxxx. Please comment on what this means.

  11. Hanei says:

    Hi Web,
    Thanks for helping EB5 community.
    My priority date is 14 June 2018 and receipt number is WAC 18xx I have county of Chargeability “India” and will be applying for the EB-5 Visa at the Consulate in Mumbai. Do you see my I-526 being approved anytime soon? Thanks for your help in advance.
    SM

  12. Dat Vu says:

    Thanks for the information.

    My priority date is Aug 7th 2017for Vietnam, just being current. I check my visa case status and it says my application is still at NVC. How long approximately do you think the US Consulate in Vietnam take to schedule the visa interview?

    Thank you,
    Dat

    • This question depends on politics I think. The on-going shutdown of consular processing in Vietnam is obviously not really excused by COVID-19, which Vietnam has handled very well. I’ll post here if I learn anything from Charles Oppenheim this week on when Department of State will start scheduling visa interviews again.

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