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April 25 2023

New EB-5 Set Aside Program for People Born in India or China

The EB-5 investor green card process has been in effect for over 20 years. About a decade ago, it became very popular with people in China and more recently people born in India. Since then, many have applied, far more than the 10,000 visas that are available each year for this visa classification. Thus, there is a long waiting list for people born in China and a line for those born in India to receive a green card via the EB-5 visa category.

Last year, the law was amended and a new EB-5 law was enacted, which became effective last May.  It has three new EB-5 “reserve” subcategories: 20% of the 10,000 annual visas are reserved for people investing in projects in “rural” areas and these applications are supposed to be expedited by the government; 10% are reserved for investors in projects in high unemployment areas; and 2% are reserved for infrastructure projects.

Twenty percent of the 10,000 visas for rural projects would indicate that there are 2,000 visas available each year.  However, the structure of the entire immigration law is a bit more complex. Overall, no country’s immigrants can get more than 7% of a visa classification\'s numbers. The former State Department official who ran the visa allocation system called the \"Visa Bulletin\" has said that he believes the 7% rule applies to the new reserve categories as well. Thus, there are not many rural reserved visas for people born in China or India. This means that the sooner people apply for a rural or high unemployment set aside visa, the better.

Also, the new law has an important benefit in that one does not have to wait for the first application, called the \"I-526 form\" to be approved before applying to change status from a nonimmigrant visa (such as an H-1B or student visa) to a green card, called \"adjustment of status\" with form I-485. Under the new law, as long as a visa number is current on the Visa Bulletin, one can file both the I-526 and I-485 forms together. This is a big benefit, as one can immediately apply for change of status from F-1 student status or H-1B to EB-5 green card by filing the I-526 and I-485 concurrently since there are still visas currently available under the new EB-5 set aside categories. But this could change in the near future as more people apply.

When the form I-485 is filed, one is eligible for work and travel permits. There has been a large backlog of work permits and travel applications due to a slowdown in the immigration system by the last administration and COVID. Travel permits are still slow, but the work permits are coming much faster. It can save a lot of processing time to file the I-526 and I-485 together. However, to do this, there must be a current EB-5 visa number available on the Visa Bulletin. Visa numbers are available today and through at least May and possibly longer. (We do not know when the reserved categories will be full and there will no longer be a current visa until the Visa Bulletin is issued each month showing visa availability for the next month.) 

Overall, if one applies soon, one can be ahead of the long line of India and China born EB-5 applicants.