Is EB-5 Program expansion on the horizon?
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program let's wealthy foreigners invest $500,000 (or sometimes, but more rarely, $1,000,000) in an EB-5 project that stimulates the U.S. economy and creates jobs for U.S. workers in exchange for permanent residency in the U.S. for the investor and their family.
EB-5 project developers love the EB-5 Program, which essentially brings them investment capital for their large project developments at a very low interest rate.
There has been no EB-5 Program expansion in the number of visas allotted in over 20 years.
Each year, the EB-5 Program has received more applicants, but the allotted amount of visas has remained the same, at 10,000 for not only investors, but their families too. With approval from USCIS for their EB-5 investments, each EB-5 investor can obtain conditional permanent residency for himself or herself as well as for their spouse and their unmarried children under the age of 21. This means each investor receives, on average, about 2.5-3 visas per family. Therefore, only 3,000-4,000 visas, of the 10,000 allotted, are going to investors.
After the EB-5 Program extension at the end of 2015, to September 30, 2016, Chinese investors grew nervous that the minimum investment amount might rise from $500,000 to $800,000. This is one possible reason for the influx of I-526 (Immigration Petition by Alien Entrepreneur) forms in the first quarter of 2016 (October - December 2015). USCIS's chart shows that there are 21,988 petitions pending for this quarter.
One solution, that the current administration may try, is to increase the cap. Right now, only 3,000-4,000 visas are going to investors. They may try to expand that so that 10,000 visas go to investors, effectively discounting the visas that go to families, and essentially issuing 25,000 to 30,000 visas per year.
However, there's still the huge issue with processing times. The Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO), even at its most efficient, cannot keep up with the growing number of petitions, and processing times have slowed to reflect that. Click here to take a look at current EB-5 Program processing times.
The process for approval is also growing tougher. With so many more petitions being filed, and only 10,000 visa spots available, the percentage of petitions being denied keeps increasing.
While some worry that the EB-5 Program may be terminated, come September, it looks more likely that it'll be expanded to meet the growing popularity.