Unfortunately, the answer is typically longer than EB-5 investors would like. Despite the long wait times, however, the ability to obtain a green card for the United States is worth it. Investors from Mainland China, India, Vietnam agree, as they continue to account for the largest portions of the EB-5’s growing popularity regardless of the backlogs for applicants from their countries.
The backlogs relate to the time it takes for an EB-5 investor to become eligible to apply for a visa following the approval of their I-526 petition, but investors have traditionally also had to wait around two years for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to grant this approval. Recently, it has taken USCIS longer to process I-526 petitions—32 to 49 months (2.7 to 4 years) in February 2020, which has been extended to 33 to 50 months (2.8 to 4.2 years) in March 2020.
If your I-526 petition is being processed particularly slowly, you may reach out to USCIS to inquire about your case—but only if a certain amount of time has elapsed. Alongside the updated processing times, USCIS provides the earliest receipt date by which investors are eligible to launch case inquiries—as of March 3, 2020, EB-5 investors whose I-526 petitions USCIS received by January 13, 2016, may launch inquires.
USCIS’s New I-526 Processing Approach
Some major changes are coming to the EB-5 processing approach in April 2020. Starting March 31, 2020, USCIS will begin processing I-526 petitions based on the availability of visas for the applicant’s country, as opposed to the current first-in-first-out approach. As USCIS determines which I-526 petitions to process based on Chart B of each month’s Visa Bulletin, EB-5 investors from underrepresented countries, including South Africa, Argentina, and Egypt, may have their applications expedited, while investors from Mainland China may be forced to wait even longer for their life in the United States. It will be interesting to see what kind of processing times UCSIS estimates in April, as it dives into the new processing approach.