Irony: If You Can Only Afford an Airline Ticket, You Can Come to the U.S. Easily; If You Can Put up $800,000, It Is Much More Difficult

A vast majority of the visas available for the EB-5 program for the last five years have not been used.

By David North on October 2, 2023

One of the ironies of the current immigration system is that if you want to bring your family, say, from South America and all you have is the price of an airline ticket, you can come and come quickly (if outside the normal law). You will then get an EAD, an employment authorization document, as my colleagues are reporting.

But if your family can put up $800,000 or more in a Homeland Security-approved investment in the EB-5 (immigrant investor program), you have trouble getting in (even though you may get through eventually). In fact, a vast majority of the visas available for this program for the last five years have not been used.

According to DHS data, as presented by IIUSA’s “EB-5 Data Dashboard”, of the 64,574 visas available to the program, only 23,150 have been used in the last five fiscal years, FYs 2019 through 2023. When the last two months data is added in, the figure will remain about 24,000.

The data reflects a half-decade’s worth of bad news for the program, including both Covid-19, the long-suspension of the program’s authorization by Congress, a subsequent passage of EB-5 reform legislation, and the ensuing (badly needed) revision of the program’s regulations by the department, as reported earlier.

I am not suggesting that the congressional and departmental moves were inappropriate — far from it — just that neither the industry nor the government has been forthcoming about the continuing problems of the program. Here are the year-by-year figures:

Number of Available and Used EB-5 Visas,
FYs 2019-2023

EB-5 Visas
EB-5 Visas
2019 9,940 9,478 9,940 is the normal ceiling
2020 11,111 3,596 Covid impact
2021 18,602 2,949 Covid impact
2022 19,880 10,885 Includes “fall downs”
2023 13,987 7,127* Includes “fall downs”
Totals 64,575 23,150 A usage rate of 35.9%

Source: IIUSA ”EB-5 Visa Data Dashboard”, based in turn, on DHS data.
Data is through July 2023. Also excludes a small number of adjustments of status;
this number will grow to about 9,000 when final numbers are available.

In the four most recent fiscal years, there have been “fall-downs” of several thousand EB-5 visas; this is the case because there were fewer EB-1 through EB-4 visas issued than the ceilings for these categories, and hence they were made available to EB-5 applicants, with EB standing for “employment-based”. To my knowledge, I had not seen the specifics of the “fall-downs” before.

Many of the EB-5 visas issued in recent years have been used for investors from China; these visas have been backlogged for years because of the longstanding law restricting the issuance of any visas beyond 7 percent of a given category to people from any nation. Hence many of the recent issuances of EB-5 visas do not reflect new investments.