EB-5 Visa Set Asides-Backlog for India and China by the End of the Year?

by Rebecca S. Singh, Esq. & Joanna Lee, Esq.


With wait times for Indian and Chinese nationals to file adjustment of status through EB-2 or EB-3[1] for an employment-based green card estimated up to over 100 years,[2] the EB-5 category continues to be the fastest route to a green card for those able to meet the investment requirements. This is even more so after the enactment of the EB-5 Reform & Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA), providing set aside categories that jumped investors in otherwise backlogged countries (e.g., China, India) ahead of pre-RIA cases.

What Are Set-Aside Visas Under EB-5?

The EB-5 category is allotted 10,000 visas[3] to qualified individuals seeking lawful permanent residence via capital investment in a commercial enterprise. Most of these visas are in the Unreserved category that includes those applicants who invested prior to the RIA or any post-RIA investments that do not qualify for the set-aside categories. There are a set of reserved visas[4] (the “set-aside” visas) for investments made in qualified Rural (20%), High Unemployment (10%), or Infrastructure (2%) locations.

The set-aside visas[5] have been a game changer for Chinese and Indian nationals who, prior to RIA, already had visa backlogs in the unreserved category – allowing post-RIA individuals to invest in one of the three visa set-aside categories. These new investors can reap the benefits of 1) filing for their green card applications concurrently (or at the same time as their EB-5 applications if the investor is already in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa), 2) applying for employment and travel authorization if able to file for their green card concurrently, and 3) receiving conditional green cards sooner based upon the current visas available in these set-asides.

Potential Backlog?

As TEA and Rural projects continue in popularity amongst EB-5 investors due to immediate visa availability (and faster adjudication time, but for another discussion!), the big question remains: will we see backlog in certain countries? We at MSA, have long been predicting[6] that it is only a matter of time before the TEA and Rural set-aside categories become backlogged for Chinese and Indian nationals. The number of petitions in queue for these two countries have quickly risen in just two years, even with the increased capital investment from $500,000 to $800,000.

However, it has been predicted by Michael Hanley,[7] Data Scientist at the U.S. Department of State, that visas will remain current in all set-aside categories through FY 2024 and early FY 2025. For now, visas are still currently available under these categories, but don’t be fooled – the 2025 fiscal year begins October 1, 2024. Could there be backlog by the end of the year? 

EB-5 Carryover – will it help backlog?

The Michael Hanely indicated that the Department of State is fairly confident in the FY 2024 and FY 2025 visa availability predictions based upon the number of unused or “carryover” visas from other categories that, as left unused, carry over to the next immigration category.

 -

FY 2022

FY 2023

FY 2024 (est.)

FY 2025 (est.)

Worldwide Employment Limit

281,507

197,091

161,000

140,000

EB-5 Newly-Available Pool (7.1%)

19,987

13,993

11,431

9,940

Unreserved (68% of EB-5 Newly Available pool)

13,591

9,515

7,773

6,759

Reserved (32% of EB-5 newly available pool)

6,396

4,478

3,658

3,181

Reserved Carryover

 -

6,496

4,478

3,658

Unreserved Carryover

 -

 -

6,396

4,478

Unreserved Total

13,591

9,515

14,169

11,237

Reserved Total

6,396

10,874

8,136

6,839

As we consider visa availability presently and for the future, the data suggests that for FY 2024 there are category visas available. These numbers factor visas from other immigrant categories that went unused and then “carried over” to EB-5 for use. These unused visas can largely be attributed to the Pandemic when thousands of visas went unused during that time period.

Michael Hanley suggests it will use the entire allotment of visas available for FY 2024. It is our hope that we will see a reduction in backlogged cases for investors in the unreserved category, those who filed pre-RIA, as it is only fair.

Based on the same numbers above, for FY 2025 there will be 11,237 unreserved and 6,839 reserved visas available. Looking closer at FY 2025 estimated numbers, if the “rest of world” petitions increase and China and India demand remains high, then final action dates could be set by mid to end of FY 2025 because there will be less unused “rest of world” visas available.

EB-5 Limits for FY 2025 (Baseline Estimates)

Category

Worldwide Total

China

India

Unreserved (68%)

11,237

787

787

Set-Aside: Rural (20%)

4,274

299

299

Set-Aside: High Unemployment (10%)

2,137

150

150

Set-Aside: Infrastructure (2%)

428

30

30

The above chart is a baseline estimate provided by Michael Hanley based on data from the U.S. Department of State. From these predicted numbers, China will use any unused “rest of world” unreserved numbers each quarter because they have the earliest priority dates.

At the May 2024 IIUSA EB-5 Industry Forum, the topic of visa availability in the set-aside categories was a primary focus for all who attended. IIUSA’s own compelling analysis of the State Department’s data found that visas should remain current for Chinese and Indian nationals in the set-aside categories at least through early to mid FY 2025.

Rural or High Unemployment?

If we rely on the fact that the set-asides are likely to remain current for the rest of FY 2024 and at least partially through FY 2025, it stands to wonder, which of the set-aside categories will become backlogged sooner – rural or high unemployment?

With the rural set-aside provided 20% or 2,000 of the total EB-5 visas and high unemployment set-aside provided 10% or 1,000 visas, along with the fact that there are simply more high unemployment projects available on the market, it is reasonably concluded that the high unemployment category will be the first of the reserved set-aside categories to go into backlog.

Currently, there are more visas than demand for the rural set-aside category, and virtually all of the 200 (2%) infrastructure set-aside visas are available. With such numbers staring at us, one would think that Indian and Chinese nationals should focus their attentions on rural projects over high unemployment to avoid possible visa delays (and that regional center rural projects receive priority processing).

However, investors should balance the speed of getting a green card with the strength of the project in terms of: 1) the development team, 2) the return on investment (ROI), 3) the return of initial capital investment, 4) the likelihood to complete the project, and 5) the creation of the required jobs, among other factors. Rural projects are not without risks, and it may be worth a slightly longer wait time for the right project.

In the end, who is most affected by potential backlogs of the set-aside categories?

It is important to note that for any potential EB-5 investor who is born in a country other than China or India – all categories of the EB-5 visas remain current. There are currently no predictions that these “rest of world” categories will become backlogged in FY 2024 or FY 2025 either. This means that those born in countries other than China or India do not need to be overly concerned about visa availability and are free to choose projects regardless of being in reserved or unreserved categories.

Those born in India and China do not have the same luxury as the rest of the world given the current visa backlog in the unreserved category. However, as discussed above, the reserved category Rural and High Unemployment set-aside categories remain current for Indian and Chinese nationals for now.

Indian and Chinese nationals should not get complacent, for though it appears Rural and High Unemployment set-asides will remain current through mid FY 2025 is welcome news, FY 2025 starts October 1, 2024 and therefore, we could be seeing backlogs in these two set-aside categories for Chinese and Indian nationals as early as Spring or Summer FY 2025 conservatively and as late as Fall FY 2025 (end of FY 2025).

Given the significant popularity of Rural and High Unemployment projects, it is only a matter of time until these set-aside categories are backlogged for Indian and Chinese national investors and therefore, we urge such investors not to wait!

[1] Singh, R. S., Esq (2020, October 2). EB-5 Versus EB-2/3. Retrieved June 4, 2024, from https://mshahlaw.com/eb-5-versus-eb-2-3/

[2] Mona Shah & Associates Global (2020, October 22). 100 Combined Years On Visa Availability – Episode 127. Retrieved June 4, 2024, from https://mshahlaw.com/100-combined-years-on-visa-availability-source-of-fund-issues-episode-127/

[3] Invest In USA (n.d.). What is EB-5. IIUSA. Retrieved June 4, 2024, from https://iiusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/What-is-EB-5_2024.pdf

[4] United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (2022, July 28). About the EB-5 Visa Classification. USCIS.Gov. Retrieved June 4, 2024, from https://iiusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/What-is-EB-5_2024.pdf

[5] Mona Shah and Associates Global (2022, August 11). Visa Set Asides Under The EB-5 Reform And Integrity Act Of 2022 – Episode 164. Mona Shah and Associates Global. Retrieved June 4, 2024, from https://mshahlaw.com/visa-set-asides-under-the-eb-5-reform-and-integrity-act-of-2022-episode-164/

[6] Mona Shah and Associates Global (2022, August 31). Episode 188: Reflections On The Impact Of Visa Backlogs In Set-Asides & Other Matters. Retrieved June 4, 2024, from https://mshahlaw.com/podcast-episode-188-reflections-on-the-impact-of-visa-backlogs-in-set-asides-other-matters/

[7] Invest In the USA (2024, May 30). RECAPPING THE 2024 EB-5 INDUSTRY FORUM. IIUSA. Retrieved June 4, 2024, from https://iiusa.org/blog/recapping-2024-eb-5-industry-forum-atlanta/


About The Author


Rebecca S. Singh, Esq. is an advanced EB-5 practitioner, Rebecca has worked with numerous project developers, analyzing and crafting entrepreneur, direct-pooled, and regional center projects from I-526 to I-829 petitions. She is well versed in USCIS compliance, offering advice on policy and integrity measures. Rebecca regularly receives co-counseling requests to assist regional centers, projects, and investors in responding to complicated Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs).


Joanna Lee, Esq. is a Senior Attorney with Mona Shah & Associates Global practicing in the New York City office. Joanna has 7 years of experience overseeing complex business immigration matters for clients in diverse industries. Her expertise ranges from E-2, L-1, to EB-5 with a focus on ensuring clients' immigration and business needs align. As an EB-5 practitioner, Joanna oversees project and investor filings including investor source of funds and concurrent filings. Joanna is admitted to practice law in the State of New York with a Juris Doctor Cum Laude from Vermont Law School.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.