What Does the Latest Update to the National Historical Average Processing Time for I-526 Petitions Reveal?

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released an update to the I-526 petition historical national average processing time. This updated average processing time, which includes data from the whole of FY2020, grew from sits at a mere 14.2 months, down from 19.8 in FY2019 and a far cry from the several-year-long prediction indicated by the estimated processing time range. The average time is a five-year low, highlighting a quick I-526 turnaround for EB-5 investors.

What Is the I-526 Petition and How Does It Relate to the EB-5 Investment Program?

The I-526 petition is the first petition filed by an EB-5 immigrant investor. The petition functions as an EB-5 application, where investors must prove that their investment capital came from legal sources and was invested in a compliant new commercial enterprise (NCE). Investors must also show the NCE’s plan of operation, such as its plan to hire employees and some economic models and projections related to the NCE.

The EB5 investment program requires immigrant investors to invest a minimum of $900,000, if their project is located within an area with high unemployment or a low population, called a targeted employment area (TEA), or $1.8 million if the project is not in a TEA. The investment must also create a minimum of 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. In exchange, immigrant investors and their immediate family are granted legal permanent residency rights in the United States.

What Does the Data Reveal?

Considering the tumultuous year the world experienced in 2020, it would not be surprising if USCIS’s processing times increased, especially given that USCIS closed its offices to the public. However, according to the national historical average processing time for I-526 petitions, it decreased. The lower processing times could be attributed to USCIS’s inability to perform certain other operations due to the pandemic, allowing officers more time to adjudicate EB-5 petitions.

There is also a major discrepancy between the national historical average processing time and the data on the USCIS case processing page. USCIS’s estimated wait of somewhere between 35.5 to 68.5 months is at best twice the length of the national historical average processing time. Although the low historical average is promising, EB-5 investors should remember that they may experience longer wait times for their applications to be processed.

USCIS is still adjudicating petitions associated with the EB-5 program despite obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, even if potential EB-5 investors who are currently overseas cannot apply for EB-5 visas due to U.S. embassies and consulates being closed, those already dwelling in the United States who apply under the EB-5 investment program may obtain permanent residency quicker than before, given the lack of overseas applicants. If you are currently residing in the United States on a different visa and are considering applying for the EB5 investment program, get in touch with us.