The U.S. Department of State's full "Report of the Visa Office 2014" provides statistics on "Preference Visas Issued" and “Immigrant Visas Issued and Adjustments of Status Subject to Numerical Limitations” for the EB-5 category. The publication breaks-down EB-5 numbers according to the visa recipients' specific countries of origin, also offering continental totals. The publication additionally differentiates between the type of EB-5 investment that was made (directly or through a regional center), and whether the investment was made in a targeted employment area, among other data. These numbers offer insight into where and how the EB-5 program is most utilized, and in combination with data from Fiscal Year 2013’s publication, provide a year over year snapshot of EB-5 investor origination trends.
EB-5 Visas Issued FY2014
When looking purely at visas issued in the EB-5 category, as expected, China mainland born investors constituted the majority in Fiscal Year 2014, with 8,308 total visas. The following chart ranks the Top 20 foreign states based on the number of EB-5 visas issued in that year, with additional delineation of the amount of regional center visas and direct EB-5 visas issued per country.
EB-5 Visas Issued and Adjustments of Status Subject to Numerical Limitations FY2014
In terms of visas issued plus adjustments of status in FY2014, China mainland born investors constituted 9,128 or 85.4% of the 10,692 grand total in the EB-5 category. This number also signifies a 32.4% relative increase from the amount of China mainland born EB-5 immigrants in FY2013, in which they constituted 80.5% of the EB-5 category total. In both years, investing $500,000 in a TEA through a regional center was the overwhelming investment choice for China mainland born applicants, with 95.5% having chosen that route in FY2013 and 98.2% in FY2014.
In fact, in FY2014, only one investor (hailing from Great Britain or Ireland) invested through the Regional Center Pilot Program NOT in a TEA, and only 2.9% of total EB-5 immigrants chose to make a direct EB-5 investment. There was also an overall decrease in the number of direct EB-5 immigrants between FY2013-14, with 5.4% choosing to invest directly in the former year. These numbers reiterate the importance of the Regional Center Pilot Program in terms of attracting investors to the EB-5 visa category. Interestingly, when EB-5 investors do invest directly, the total numbers are split nearly 50/50 in both years between those who make a $1 million investment not in a TEA, and those who make the $500,000 investment in a TEA.
After those born in mainland China, South Korea (2.1%), Mexico (1.2%), China Taiwan Born (1.2%), Vietnam (1.1%), and Russia (0.9%) make up the greatest percentages of total immigrants, including adjustments of status, in the 5th employment preference category in FY2014. Other than the more than 5% increase for China Mainland-born EB-5 immigrants noted above, of these top six countries, Vietnam had the largest increase in the fraction of overall EB-5 immigrants between FY2013 and FY2014, while South Korea had the greatest decrease. Numerically, in the former year, EB-5 applicants from South Korea constituted 4.2% of total EB-5 applicants, Mexico 1.7%, China Taiwan-born 1.6%, Vietnam 0.5%, and Russia 0.8%. Indeed, while Vietnam only had 46 EB-5 immigrants in FY2013, the country produced 121 in FY2014, meaning that there was a 45% increase in the number of Vietnamese EB-5 investors from last year.
Regionally, Europe as a whole experienced a decline in EB-5 immigrants and adjustments of status from FY2013 to FY2014, with its total number dropping approximately 12.5%. North America followed the same trend, declining approximately 10.6%, along with South America, which dropped 9.9%, and Oceania had a 71.4% decrease, although the region has only had 18 EB-5 investors in the past two years. Africa actually experienced a 63.3% increase in its number of EB-5 visa recipients over the last year and was the only continental area other than Asia to experience an increase in its portion of the overall number of EB-5 immigrants, jumping from 0.9% in FY2013 to 1.2% in FY2014. Specifically, Nigerian immigrants jumped nearly 10% in the proportion of EB-5 immigrants in the African region. As mentioned, the region of Asia had the largest jump from 90.1% of total EB-5 immigrants in FY2013 to 93.11% in FY2014.
Activity in the EB-5 category has expanded tremendously in the last several years alone, with Asia, and specifically Mainland China, as far and away the leading regional source of investors. The deviations in other regions are somewhat nominal, and based on market feedback which may not necessarily be reflected in FY2014's data set, interest in the EB-5 visa in many regions of the globe is steadily rising. Perhaps the most important number to emphasize in this data is that in FY2014, for the first time in Immigrant Investor Program history, more than 10,000 status adjustments were made/EB-5 visas were issued, and that is a nearly 25% increase from FY2013. All of these factors, coupled with the possibility of visa retrogression affecting Chinese nationals, will almost certainly be manifest in the FY2015 numbers as a proportionate rise in EB-5 immigrants from countries apart from China.
EB5 Investors Magazine would like to thank Nima Korpivaara for his contribution to this article.