Understanding the processing times for the EB-5 Investment Immigration Visa program can be confusing to even the most astute individuals. Before the entire process can be correctly understood, one must first understand the beginning of the process. That is, the time it takes to process the I-526 Form.
The I-526 is the Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur. It is a 13-page form with an additional 13 pages of instructions and is specifically for use by prospective EB-5 Investors. The date of receipt of the I-526 by the USCIS is also called the priority date.
This date is important because it determines the petitioner’s place in the processing queue, not only for approval of the I-526 but also for the approval and issuance of an actual visa. All processing times are calculated from the receipt date. In other words, an applicant’s priority status regardless of where he or she is in the process is always determined by the date of the receipt of the I-526.
If Investor A files his I-526 on 01 July 2018, and Investor B files her petition on 01 August 2018, Investor A will always be in line for an EB-5 visa in front of Investor B – even if the USCIS completes the processing of her I-526 first.
EB-5 Processing Time in 2018
The processing times published by the USCIS are an average of times from all USCIS offices. The times are based on the workload of cases that are pending. The average varies from time to time. Actual times may vary significantly.
The number of pending I-526 petitions at the close of the First Quarter of Fiscal 2018 was 24,627. The USCIS processed (approved and denied) a total of 3,044 petitions during that same period. If we were to assume that the service processes I-526 petitions at a steady rate, mathematically, a petition filed today would take eight quarters (24,627 / 3,044) – or 24 months to be approved.
The USCIS is now maintaining updates on their website in which they post current processing times based on their data, insights, and assumptions. Interestingly, their website projects I-526 processing times at 23.1 months, verifying our mathematical projection.
The current expected processing time is almost exactly twice the time processing took in 2014 when it took 11.6 months. However, in the First Quarter of Fiscal 2014, the USCIS had only 13,526 I-526 petitions awaiting approval, slightly more than half the number that has now been accumulated.
Having said that, we reiterate that these are averages – not actual processing times. Any number of variables can affect individual cases. Although some take close to 24 months, others, including some filed in 2017, have already been approved in 14 months or less.
The important takeaway for our readers is that the entire process begins at and is measured from the date of receipt of the I-526 at the USCIS. No one can say for certain how long any individual petition may take for approval. The most important step in the entire EB-5 visa approval process may be the very first.
The fastest way to obtain an EB-5 visa is to get your petition filed. Of course, it is important to be sure that your petition is complete and accurate. That is why we strongly recommend consulting with a highly-experienced Immigration Attorney even before filing the I-526. The more accurate and complete a petition is, the fewer questions will be raised and the easier it should flow through the approval process.
Our Immigration Attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience and expertise. We are available to review your situation and advise you on the best and right way to handle your specific situation and secure the best outcome for you and your family.