The State Department quietly opened the flood gates for EB-5 immigrant investors during September in that off-again, on-again program, once largely shut down by the Congress.
A monthly report carrying the name “Immigrant Visa Issuances by Foreign State of Chargeability or Place of Birth” shows that in September the Department issued 2,600 EB-5 visas for investors and dependents, compared to 37 visas in April.
The main part of the program, that which pooled alien’s money rather than the part that required direct investment, has always been covered by a temporary authorization; this was cut off in June of 2021, and revived in March of this year.
The long cut-off of congressional authorization, as well as Covid-19 complications, had reduced issuances to a trickle for a long time but the system started to open up in August when the Department issued 583 EB-5 visas in China, a number that soared to 2,312 in September. In the latter month, there were 288 EB-5 visas issued in the rest of the world, with Vietnam getting 82 of them and India 56.
Nervous Chinese millionaires have long dominated the program. They do not necessarily want to move to the U.S. immediately, but they want another passport if things go badly in China; many want their children to be able to live in the U.S. They are, essentially, casting a quiet vote against the country that enabled them to get rich.
My strong sense is that the large number of issuances came from backlogs of applications filed years ago, and not from a burst of new investments. The December 2022 Visa Bulletin, another DoS publication, states that Chinese citizens on the EB-5 list with a priority date of January 1, 2016 may apply for entry. The program is subject to the usual country-of-origin numerical restrictions and a cap of just under 10,000 visas a year; these restrictions helped build the Chinese backlog.
The EB-5 program grants green cards to alien investors who put up varying sums of money over the years in investments approved but not guaranteed by DHS, largely in urban real-estate ventures. Years ago the minimum was $500,000; now it is $800,000. The investor and his or her spouse, plus unmarried children under the age of 21, are all covered by a single investment; so there are about 2.5 visas per investment.
Many U.S.- based middlemen, often with Chinese names, have stolen or otherwise wasted lots of alien money in the program, which complicated its re-authorization by Congress. When it was finally revived in March 2022, Congress included reforms intended to control the corruption of earlier years.