United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its estimated time range for I-526 petitions, and it’s good news for investors: It has fallen by several months. The previous processing range was 31 to 50.5 months, and it has dropped to 29.5 to 44.5 months.
EB-5 investors must understand two critical things when considering UCSIS’s estimated processing time range. The first is that, in fact, the majority of I-526 petitions are processed outside the estimated time range. To calculate the range, USCIS uses the time by which it processes 50% of petitions as the first number and the time by which it processes 93% of petitions as the second number. Therefore, assuming perfect precision, only 43% of petitions should be adjudicated within the range.
The second thing EB-5 investors must understand about USCIS’s processing time estimates is that they are based on data from two months prior. Since the current estimates use data from March 2020 and earlier, they cannot be expected to perfectly align to processing volumes in May 2020.
The EB-5 program has undergone multiple changes in 2020, including the switch to a visa availability processing approach and numerous closures and disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anecdotal reports suggest that I-526 petitions are being processed faster in light of the shutdowns, but clear evidence will not be available until June. Furthermore, with U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide closed for routine visa services, overseas investors will not be able to apply for their visas even if they receive I-526 approval.