For an immigrant investor hoping to obtain his or her green card though the EB5 capital investment program, they must first choose an EB5 projects and then make the required capital investment. That path to a green card and potentially to US citizenship, begins with the filing of Form I-526, the Immigration Petition for Alien Entrepreneur. The I-526 petition must be submitted with accompanying evidence in support of the USCIS EB5 program’s requirements. Upon receipt, the USCIS will evaluate and adjudicate the I-526 petition.
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I-526 processing time
Historical I-526 processing trends
Historically, this number has changed quite significantly. For example, in August of 2018, the range was 19.5 months to 25 months. And in 2014 the I-526 processing time was an average of 11.6 months. So, clearly the estimated time has been trending up over the years. With that said, in 2017 and 2018 the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) saw several quarters of improved processing times. IPO Chief Sarah Kendall told industry stakeholders in October 2018 that IPO was fully staffed and looking to make significant improvement in the backlog in 2019. However, this optimism was not to last as improvement stopped at the end of 2018 with a 37% reduction from the previous quarter. No official explanation has been issued regarding this sudden and unexpected change.
Reasons for a processing slowdown
In general, processing times take longer when IPO gets more petitions than it can process. However, at the time of this writing, there are a couple other possible explanations regarding the longer I-526 processing times. Increased litigation is one as perhaps USCIS is now looking to comply with recent court orders than have gone against their traditional policy implementation. Another possible reason for the slowdown could be an imminent policy change. For example, in 2011/2012 a processing slowdown came just before policy changes. The industry is certainly expecting changes to the program soon. Some industry experts have stated that the possibility exists that actual processing times have not changed at all. The thinking here is that perhaps USCIS is publishing longer times to reduce the number of inquiries they receive; perhaps USCIS wants to avoid EB 5 visa applicants filing a writ of mandamus, a court order that compels the adjudication of a case that is taking longer than the mandatory time limits.
On July 10, 2019; The U.S. House of Representatives has approved bill H.R. 1044, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019. The Act would eliminate the 7% country cap for EB-5 Green Cards.
Past investors from the rest of the world would have 3-5 year delays.
Future investors from anywhere in the world would wait 7-8 years.
What to do if your case is taking too long
Keep in mind the numbers USCIS publishes are averages. But if you have filed your I-526 and your case is outside the average processing time, you should speak with your Eb 5 Visa immigration lawyer. You or your lawyer could send an email inquire to the IPO office. USCIS says the time range indicates how long they will take to process your case from the date they received it. They also say that they “generally” process petitions in the order they are received. To check the latest USCIS processing estimates, go to their Case Processing Times page.
Concerned about the right project ?
I-526 processing times depend on many factors including I-526 petition requirements issued by USCIS. Look below at the fundamental requirements.