According to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990 (INA), approximately one hundred forty thousand (140,000) visas are allotted to the employment-based preference categories on an annual basis. The INA also allows for unused visas originally allocated to one category to be reallocated to other categories, in a particular order, in the following fiscal year.
During a webinar hosted by Invest In The USA (IIUSA) in June of this year, Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the United States Department of State, stated that there were currently a significant number of unused visas that had originally been allocated to the family-based preference categories for fiscal year 2020. Oppenheim estimated that this was likely based on the shutdown of consulates abroad following the increasing intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world. While he qualified his statement by acknowledging that it was based on the number of visas as it stood in June of 2020, Oppenheim estimated that the number of visas allotted to the employment-based preference categories could be as high as two hundred thousand (200,000) in fiscal year 2021.
The EB-5 immigrant visa category, by statute, may only receive up to 7.1% of all employment-based immigrant visas issued annually. If Oppenheim’s estimate proves correct, this could mean a total of fourteen thousand (14,000) visas allotted to this category which has traditionally suffered from a lack of visa availability. The EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 immigrant visa categories each may receive up to 28.6% of all employment-based immigrant visa issued annually, or more than one hundred seventy thousand (170,000) divided amongst the three categories in the next fiscal year.