By Anayat Durrani
Fiscal Year 2024 is shaping up to be a good year for EB-5 investors as visa availability is projected to be more abundant, with industry experts estimating more than 20,000 EB-5 visas.
“It’s actually 22,233, but that can be modified based on the final determination of the EB-5 worldwide level of FY 2024, which we estimated to be at 160K,” says Joseph Barnett, partner at WR Immigration in California.
Barnett adds there are more numbers of visas available than previously due to the carryover provisions in the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA).
“The reserved visas from FY 2022 weren’t used in FY 2022 or FY 2023 and are now part of unreserved FY 2024, and the reserved visas from FY 2023 weren’t used in FY 2023 either and carry over to reserved FY 2024,” Barnett explains.
Meanwhile, Greg Sheehan, director of the EB-5 investment platform and USCIS compliance at Behring Co. in California, says he anticipates “significant additional capacity over the next two years, even if it’s not 20,000 in 12 months, but they’ll work through the carryover visas first.” He says what’s left then are newly issued visas that will carry over into FY2025.
“The extra volume, it’s a ‘bumper crop,’ if you will. You may see EB-5 priority dates remain current or improve across the board due to expansive allocations,” Sheehan expects.
He adds this is comparable to what happened in the COVID pandemic with the EB-2 and EB-3 carryovers from a few years ago. This time it’s happening to EB-5, “simply because the program lapse shifted the opportunity timeline out to FY 2024,” he says.
“The U.S. Consulate in Mumbai has been processing EB-5 visas at a quicker pace, and USCIS is currently allowing adjustment of status filings for individuals with a priority date of April 2022 or before,” says Tristani. “The higher number of visas means that certain countries will receive more visas than are normally available to them in a typical fiscal year.”
Source: WR Immigration
Positive outlook for EB-5 application approvals and processing times
With just two months left of 2023, EB-5 investors may wonder what the new year holds. Sheehan describes the outlook for 2024 as very positive as the USCIS Investor Program Office (IPO) is giving investors approval codes in both the reserved and unreserved categories, and the codes are related directly to visa allocation.
“We all know the priority is to use the reserved visas first. There is this idea being promoted that High Unemployment Areas only get the first 10% and Rural areas only get the first 20% of visas, and every year you have to hope to be one of the lucky families within those small annual batches,” says Sheehan.
According to Sheehan, most Regional Center projects are in these areas of economic need and the government possesses a financial incentive to utilize all the visas and not allow 68% of visas to go mostly unused.
“IPO gave the State Department the ultimate flexibility by allowing allocation of visas to Rural and HUA projects using the unreserved surplus, subject to country cap calculations,” says Sheehan. “This is a game changer for issues like wait time and retrogression. Watching closely, but I think they are telling us something sensible is happening with the dual approval codes.”
Meanwhile, Barnett calls the overall outlook for EB-5 as strong in FY 2024 “because the supply of visas is larger than before, but we need consulates to be efficient in scheduling interviews and issuing immigrant visas.”
He adds that he anticipates the reserved visas “to remain ‘current’ for at least the next eight months, which provides great opportunities for those in the U.S. who are eligible to file adjustment of status applications.”
For new EB-5 investors, Tristani also believes the outlook post-RIA is positive. He says processing times for I-526 petitions based on rural investments are under a year “and as quick as three to four months.” The attorney says post-RIA high-unemployment I-526 petitions are beginning to have approvals in 13 to 14 months.
“These are very quick processing times that we haven’t seen in years,” says Tristani. “The ability to continue to concurrently file for adjustment of status alongside one’s I-526 petition is an enormous benefit and will likely be available for all countries the first half of the 2024 calendar year.”