The EB-5 Immigrant Investor program has become increasingly popular in recent years, which has resulted in a steadily growing backlog of I-526 petitions. Other countries have begun to catch up to China, India, and Vietnam, the three largest EB-5 countries, in this regard.
An I-526 petition takes roughly two years to be processed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and that’s just the beginning of the wait. As of March 2020, the wait has only gotten longer, with processing times for petitions now taking between 33 to 50 months.
Along with the I-526 processing times, USCIS also provides a receipt date for case inquiries: Investors who filed a petition on or prior to the specified receipt date can launch an inquiry into their petition’s unusually long processing time. While it is subject to change, as of March 10, 2020, the receipt date for case inquiries is January 20, 2016.
A New Approach to I-526 Processing
Beginning March 31, 2020, USCIS will change its I-526 petition processing method from a first-in-first-out basis to visa availability. This means that petitions will be prioritized for processing based on the number of visas available for the applicant’s country. This will result in increased wait times for Chinese investors, which has large numbers of investors vying for a limited number of visas and therefore is not current in Chart B of the monthly Visa Bulletin, which USCIS uses to decide which I-526 petitions to process. On the other hand, investors in underrepresented EB-5 countries, such as Japan, the UK, and Canada, will likely find their processing times decreasing. This new system could potentially have major implications, so be on the lookout for the USCIS processing time update in April 2020.