What are the top 10 EB-5 investor markets?
By Moustafa Daly
The EB-5 visa continues to be the world’s most popular route for residency-by-investment investors who want to live the American Dream in the United States.
In 2021, the number of EB-5 visas issued stood at 2,023 to nationals from all countries, relatively low due to the pandemic, with mainland China being the biggest EB-5 investor market then with number of visas issued reaching 975. The 2022 visa report with released data from the State Department has shown this trend solidifying, with China remaining as the top EB-5 market with total EB-5 visas issued amounting to 6,125, which is more than the following nine countries combined. The total number of EB-5 visas issued in 2022 was 10,885.
Overall, 2022 witnessed a rebound after the slowdown in the years following the pandemic - which could explain why the numbers are significantly higher in 2022 than the year before, with Asian markets continuing to dominate top rankings.
What are top EB-5 visa markets around the world in 2022 from Asia and beyond?
1. China – 6,125 EB-5 visas
China has maintained EB-5 dominance for much of the program’s history, with the number of interested investors remaining consistently high over the years. This has led to mainland China investors also consistently having to face a backlog of applications in the pursuit of their green cards, with the latest final action date for Chinese investors being July 8, 2015 in the March 2023 visa bulletin.
Nevertheless, Chinese investors’ interest in obtaining EB-5 visas remains high, and the trend is expected to accelerate over the years, particularly with Chinese investors seeking security in the face of the uncertainty. In a recent report, it was found that around 10,800 wealthy Chinese left China in 2022 alone, with a big portion of them opting for nearby Singapore but also spilling over into other RBI programs, EB-5 being at the forefront.
2. India – 1,381 EB-5 visas
India has long been a vibrant market for EB-5 investors, showcased in the earlier backlog faced by investors which indicates the high volume of applications. In 2021, only 47 EB-5 visas were issued to Indian investors, with the number climbing to 1,381 last year, reflecting growing interest in the program following the loosening of Covid-19 travel restrictions. One of the factors that may be leading to the rise in the applications is the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, which, by allowing concurrent filing of applications, gave Indians residing in the U.S. the convenience of adjusting their visas to EB-5 regardless of their original visa status without having to go back to India to apply from there, solidifying India’s position as the second largest Asian immigrant group to the US after China.
3. Vietnam - 815 EB-5 visas
A total of 694 Vietnamese investors were issued EB-5 visas in 2021, and the number climbed slightly in 2022 to 815, making Vietnam the third biggest EB-5 market. The less pronounced rebound here compared to other countries could be attributed to the fact that the backlog Vietnamese applicants faced until 2021 has since cleared, allowing EB-5 investors from the country to immediately file their applications. The recent growth and flourishing of the Vietnamese economy could also help explain why interest in EB-5 visas may have dwindled over the past year, as interest in RBI programs has typically increased in countries with struggling economic performance.
4. South Korea - 396 EB-5 visas
South Korea has historically been an active EB-5 visa market, and consistently ranked amongst the top 5 EB-5 markets since the program’s launch. In 2009, the number of EB-5 petitions initiated by South Koreans made up 21% of applications. In 2021, there were 43 visas issued to South Koreans, and in 2022 the figure climbed to 396, making South Koreans the fourth largest EB-5 market throughout 2022. The trend is only expected to grow as the number of wealthy South Koreans continues to rise, reaching one million HNWIs in 2020. South Korea is also an E-2 treaty country, making the process of applying for an EB-5 visa easy and attractive for its nationals.
5. Brazil - 336 EB-5 visas
The only non-Asian country to make the top 5 EB-5 markets in 2022 was Brazil. Its EB-5 market has grown substantially since 2021, marking an astounding climb to 336 visas in 2022 as opposed to only 5 visas in 2021. The country’s political instability over the past couple of years, which culminated in the October 2022 election which saw political tensions reach an unnerving high, could be seen as a main reason causing Brazilian investors to seek investment options that give them residency rights in more stable markets like the U.S.
6. Taiwan - 225 EB-5 visas
Taiwan is a thriving economy and despite its relatively small size, it remains one of the biggest EB-5 investor markets. In 2021, its total EB-5 visas stood at 94, before climbing to 255 in 2022. The rebound following the pandemic could be the reason, but also rising tensions with China may also be motivating investors to establish footholds elsewhere, with EB-5 visas being a primary option for many Taiwanese investors.
7. Mexico – 164 EB-5 visas
Given its economic size and proximity to the US, as well as their deeply-rooted cultural connections, Mexico has long been an important EB-5 market, and with the concerns over the health of economy under the current administration peaking in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of wealthy Mexicans seeking EB-5 visas expanded in 2022, reaching a figure of 164 visas issued in 2022 after a slow 2021 which saw only three EB-5 visas issued to Mexicans.
8. Hong Kong – 142 EB-5 visas
Citizens from the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong were only issued eight EB-5 visas throughout 2021. Coming off years of political unrest followed by strict Covid-19 restrictions, Hong Kong investors are increasingly seeking visa options to help them avert such uncertainties in the future. The number of EB-5 visas issued to Hong Kong citizens reached 142, and it’s expected to increase even more in the coming years.
9. Canada - 121 EB-5 visas
The US’s wealthiest neighbor, Canada, has long been an important EB-5 market. Though Canadians get visa-free access and enjoy special relations with the US, obtaining a long-term visa is still an arduous undertaking, which is why Canadian investors opt for EB-5 visas to secure residency rights in the US. In 2021, only one Canadian investor was granted an EB-5 visa, with 2022 saw an exponential growth to 121.
10. Venezuela - 103 EB-5 visas
From only two EB-5 visas issued to Venezuelans in 2021, 103 were granted EB-5 visas in 2022. With an unstable currency and skyrocketing inflation, Venezuelans are seeking to protect the value of their funds and assets by investing elsewhere in exchange for residency rights, which makes the EB-5 program a perfect alternative for those who can afford it.