By Anayat Durrani
The State Department this week rolled out a program on their YouTube channel called “Chats with Charlie” with Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division. The first program aired on March 17 and was well-attended with more than 1,000 people.
During the chat, Oppenheim said he predicts that the employment-based green card limit will rise to at least 275,000 in fiscal year 2022. The priority dates for mainland Chinese EB-5 investors will probably not advance for the rest of the fiscal year, he announced, but it is carefully reviewed each month. The priority dates for Vietnamese EB-5 applicants will advance at a steady pace, he said.
The State Department says the YouTube series shows the department is committed to bringing more transparency by sharing the current status of their worldwide visa operations.
“The FY 2021 worldwide and per-country EB-5 annual limits are the highest ever,” a Department of State official said. “Our embassies and consulates are working to resume routine visa services on a location-by-location basis as quickly as possible. However, the pandemic continues to severely impact the number of visas our posts are able to process.”
The State Department says they do not anticipate safely returning to pre-pandemic workload levels until at least mid-2021.
Many industry professionals were positive about the online event with Oppenheimer.
“I am very pleased the new administration started “Chats with Charlie,” said immigration attorney Carl Shusterman, who runs the Law Offices of Carl Shusterman in Los Angeles.
“This allows immigrants to interact with a government official directly.”
Shusterman said in the old days when he worked as an Immigration and Naturalization Service attorney, he started a program where government attorneys attended evening citizenship classes and shared information with green card holders seeking to apply for U.S. Citizenship.
“With the Internet and YouTube, the State Department is taking this to a whole new level,” he said.
“Chats with Charlie” seeks to address all questions, such as by those experiencing wait times that vary widely for the EB and FB green cards due to their category and country of birth. However, it will not address potential reforms to the EB-5 program, a State Department spokesperson said.
Questions can be emailed to [email protected] ahead of each YouTube event or during the event in the chatroom and are answered in real-time.