Vietnam is currently one of the biggest sources of EB-5 investor applicants worldwide. While the country ranked fifth in the 2014 fiscal year according to the Report of the Visa Office of the U.S. Department of State, the popularity of the EB-5 investor program saw a major increase the next year. Vietnamese filings increased by more than 127% in 2015, and three years later, Vietnam hit the annual per-country cap of applications, which marked the official emergence of a backlog.
In July 2021, the final action date for Vietnam advanced two years to April 1, 2020, according to the State Department’s visa bulletin. Finally in the August visa bulletin 2021, Vietnam’s final action date is now current.
EB-5 visa statistics for Vietnamese nationals
With many unknown factors surrounding the EB-5 industry, uncertainty has been a major concern in recent years—including investors born in Vietnam.
In FY2018, the number of EB-5 visa applications received from Vietnam increased by almost 50% as compared to the previous year. In FY2019, despite an overall decrease in the number of worldwide petitions, the State Department’s annual report shows that Vietnamese nationals were granted a total number of 716 EB-5 visas.
USCIS implemented a new approach to processing pending EB-5 petitions in 2020. In the past, petitions had been processed based on a first-in-first-out approach, which translated into longer wait times for many countries.
Why is EB-5 popular in Vietnam?
Aside from common advantages such as access to vast financial opportunities, high-quality education, and a well-established justice system, there are other factors that have contributed to the growing popularity of the EB-5 investor program among Vietnamese nationals.
The large and densely populated cities in Vietnam, most notably Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, are the primary EB-5 markets of the nation. Especially with a population of around 9 million people, Ho Chi Minh City alone makes up about 80% of all Vietnamese EB-5 investors.
However, there are certain reasons for this popularity apart from pure statistics. The heavy migration from Vietnam that started in the late 70s mostly originated from Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. As a result, many Vietnam-born immigrants in the U.S. today have family and friends residing in Ho Chi Minh City. The popularity of the EB-5 investor program can therefore be attributed to these social bonds, as well.
As for the preferred method of investment, the significantly larger proportion of immigrant investors worldwide choosing the regional center pathway over the standard EB-5 visa also applies to Vietnamese nationals. In FY2019, 697 investors out of 716 based in Vietnam made investments through regional centers.
The impact of the pandemic for Vietnamese EB-5 applicants
When the U.S. Consulate in China closed all offices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was considered a potential advantage for applicants of other nationalities, as unused employment-based visas are traditionally allocated to other countries. However, the new visa-availability approach to processing applications (effective April 2020) posed an additional challenge to petitioners from oversubscribed countries, such as Vietnam.
According to the FY2020 data of the U.S. Department of State, a significant drop was evident in the total number of EB-5 visas (424) issued to Vietnamese nationals.
What is the current retrogression situation for Vietnam?
As of the August visa bulletin 2021, Vietnam’s final action date is current. Vietnam is out of the backlog.
Source of funds issues for Vietnamese EB-5 investors
In Vietnam, the export of Vietnamese currency is regulated by law. Since this currency restriction poses an obstacle to transferring funds to the U.S. for investment purposes, the majority of Vietnamese petitioners turn to credit institutions. In that case, the investor is requested to provide evidence of each transfer and deposit, as well as proof of path of funds.
There are several common sources of funds for EB-5 investments in general. However, not all of them are easily available to Vietnamese nationals. For instance, it is highly unlikely—because of the tax system—for the majority of employees to use their ordinary income as a source of funds.
Gifts or inheritance are also widely used to make EB-5 investments. In Vietnam, it is not uncommon for family or friends to give property or land to each other as gifts, especially on the occasion of weddings. In these cases, the investor also needs to prove how the property was acquired by the original owner.
What does the future hold for Vietnamese EB-5 investors?
Since the backlog for Vietnamese EB-5 investors has lifted and the final action date is current, the future is bright for investors from Vietnam.
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