The historical national average processing time for I-526 petitions, as of February 29, 2020, sits at 12.9 months. Though this is a slight uptick from the 12.6 months prior to the additional of the February 2020 data, it still represents a five-year record low.
Beginning in March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices have been closed to the public and overseas embassies and consulates have limited their services to only emergency situations. The effect of these measures on processing times remains to be seen. The processing time data for March 2020 will shed light on whether there is any truth to the rumors of somewhat faster processing times.
In addition, while historical national average processing times are at a record low, USCIS currently estimates case processing times for I-526 petitions at between 29.5 to 44.5 months. This is two to four times longer than the historical national average. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the actual processing time for individual EB-5 investors will vary.
The EB-5 program offers investors and their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age U.S. permanent resident status in exchange for an investment in the U.S. economy that creates at least 10 new full-time jobs. For EB-5 projects located in a targeted employment area (TEA), the minimum required investment amount is $900,000. Non-TEA EB-5 projects, on the other hand, have a higher minimum required investment amount: $1.8 million.
The first step in applying for the EB-5 program is to file an I-526 petition. EB-5 investors need to include in their I-526 petitions proof that their investment funds were obtained lawfully, evidence of their investment in a qualifying new commercial enterprise (NCE), and the NCE’s business plan.
The adjudication of I-526 petitions, which has always been done behind closed doors, continues despite the closure of USCIS offices. However, overseas EB-5 investors have hit a temporary roadblock in their visa process with the closure of U.S. consulates and embassies. This may benefit EB-5 investors who are already residing in the United States under a different visa, allowing them to receive their permanent resident status sooner.