Processing times for the initial EB-5 investor petition (now called Form I-526E) have varied significantly in recent years. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released median yearly following the implementation of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA) regulations.
1-526 processing time average
The EB-5 industry has been troubled by a significant drop in processing efficiency following a peak of 15,122 adjudicated petitions in FY 2018. In the following year, the Immigration Service's efficiency plunged 69%.
USCIS processing plummeted between FY 2018 and FY 2019
USCIS has attributed the sharp decline in processing efficiency to several factors, including staffing and facility limitations, the implementation of new EB-5 regulations in November 2019, new processing systems, increased form complexity, and a rise in litigation cases.
Initial Boost in I-526 Processing Time Fizzles Out as COVID-19 Hit
The USCIS report reveals that the average processing time for I-526 petitions dropped from 19 months in FY 2019 to 12.6 months in the first quarter of FY 2020, which was initially seen as a positive development for the EB-5 industry and investors. However, the average processing time soared to 31.1 months for the entire year, likely due to the impact of COVID-19, which emerged in the spring of 2020. This unexpected and significant increase can be attributed to the pandemic.
USCIS Continues to Grant Expedited Processing for Some EB-5 Investments
Certain investments may qualify for expedited processing if deemed in the U.S. national interest by USCIS. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, such petitions were typically processed in just three to six months. Although expedited processing times have increased, many immigration lawyers still anticipate that such petitions will be processed within six months to a year. As the effects of the pandemic subside, it's reasonable to expect a return to pre-pandemic levels of expedited processing efficiency.
Immigration Lawyers Expect One-Year Processing Times for Rural EB-5 Investments
Under the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA), rural investments have been granted a processing advantage in the form of "priority processing." While neither USCIS nor the RIA has provided specific details on what this entails, many immigration lawyers speculate that it will be similar to expedited processing. They anticipate that the priority processing times for rural investments will take about a year, although no official timelines have been released yet. Here is a discussion with three top immigration lawyers.