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EB-5 Visa Blog

U.S. Dept. of State Releases EB-5 Immigrant Visa Issuance Numbers for FY2015

Shaun Staller

The U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) has released new statistics regarding nonimmigrant and immigrant visa issuance for FY2015. Each year, the agency updates important metrics concerning visa issuance and use, which are organized in a variety of tables depending on how one wishes to filter the information. For example, one can review the data by country of chargeability or by visa preference category, among other contextualizations. Visa metrics concerning the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program can be found in Table V., Part 3. Below, we highlight some noteworthy trends in visa usage in connection with the EB-5 program along with some of our observations.

Country

Direct Investors

Regional Center Investors

5th Preference Category Total

% of Total

China (Mainland born)

99

8,057

8,156

83.5%

Vietnam

8

272

280

2.9%

China (Taiwan born)

1

138

139

1.4%

South Korea

2

114

116

1.2%

India

9

102

111

1.1%

Russia

4

84

88

0.9%

United Kingdom & Territories

0

84

84

0.9%

Mexico

7

70

77

0.8%

Iran

0

62

62

0.6%

As a threshold matter, we note that DOS issued less total visas in the 5th employment-based preference category during FY2015, issuing just 9,764 EB-5 visas, in comparison to the 10,692 visas issued during FY2014 in the same category. This represents a modest downward change that was likely influenced by visa retrogression being announced for China (mainland born) nationals in April 2015 and the ensuing efforts of DOS to get the numbers right in its wake.

In terms of direct investment versus regional center investment, the latter represented the large majority of overall EB-5 investments by a long shot during the period. With respect to visa use, visas for regional center investments constituted 98.4 percent of the total, with direct investments representing only 1.6 percent of those numbers. These figures are consistent with what immigration attorneys are generally experiencing in practice, with clients typically expressing a preference for limiting their required involvement in the day-to-day activities of the management of the EB-5 project. When we take into account adjudication and visa processing times, it will be interesting to see if and how these numbers will be affected in coming fiscal years by the political uncertainty surrounding the reauthorization of the EB-5 Regional Center Pilot Program during this past calendar year.

Turning to some country specifics, as is evident in the above table, which highlights the top visa-using countries in this visa category, China once again took the lion’s share of available EB-5 visas, taking up a whopping 83.5 percent of total visas issued. China has historically held this position and we do not predict a change in that reality in the coming year. Notably, Vietnam saw a sizeable increase to its overall visa usage figure as the program’s popularity continues to expand throughout Asia: 280 EB-5 visas in comparison to just 121 during FY2014. Indeed, South Korea—while using up fewer visas than during the prior fiscal year—still represents the fourth largest visa-using country for EB-5 in the world. It is also interesting that, among the higher volume visa-using countries, Iran was the only country that did not have any direct investors during FY2015, perhaps indicative of a general reticence towards being actively involved in the daily operation of the job creating enterprise. 

It is important to take a moment to review these metrics when released by the U.S. government as they provide empirical insight into trends that characterize and affect all corners of the EB-5 industry. With the prolonged uncertainty of the ultimate fate of the EB-5 Regional Center Pilot Program—and talks to increase the threshold investment levels—stakeholders are curious to see how interest and participation in the EB-5 program will be impacted in coming years.

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