Read on for an overview and an analysis of the EB5 wait time Indian investors face.
- Filing the I-526 Petition
- Waiting for the Priority Date
- The Type of Investment
- How the EB5 Processing Time Indian Applicants Face Has Changed
What Does an EB5 Timeline for Indian Applicants Look Like?
For the past decade, India has dominated the EB5 market alongside other high-demand countries like China and Vietnam.
However, high demand often entails longer wait times, to which India is no exception. Backlogs, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the regional center program’s lapse in 2021 have impacted the EB5 processing time Indian applicants face.
Fortunately, 2022 holds the promise of much shorter wait times for Indian applicants.
Interested foreign nationals should consult an immigration attorney for further information on EB-5 immigration.
How Long Does It Take to Receive an EB5 Visa as an Applicant From India?
The EB-5 investment process takes years to complete—even the first petition investors file, Form I-526, can have an adjudication period of several years.
While United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides average time ranges for petition processing, it is important to remember they are not exact guarantees of wait times.
It is impossible to precisely estimate processing times because the factors that influence them are always changing.
However, rough estimates can provide investors with a way to gauge wait times.
Filing the I-526 Petition
The first petition in the EB5 visa application process is Form I-526, which is used to prove that the investor meets USCIS regulations.
However, not all I-526 petitions are approved right away.
If an immigrant visa petition contains incomplete, inaccurate, or inconsistent information, USCIS will require clarification and send a request for evidence (RFE).
Although receiving an RFE does not mean the petition has been denied, it delays an investor’s EB5 timeline.
To avoid RFEs, investors must include detailed documentation in their I-526 petition and organize the information in the correct order.
Every EB5 investment is different; therefore, every I-526 petition requires different documentation.
Preparing this EB5 visa application can take weeks or months, depending on the investor’s circumstances.
Waiting for the Priority Date
Countries with particularly high EB5 visa demand often exceed the available supply, which typically results in a cut-off date set for EB5 applicants from those nations.
When this happens, applicants can only proceed with their EB5 process based on their priority date: the date on which USCIS received their I-526 petition.
An investor whose priority date falls after the cut-off date must wait until the former becomes “current.”
A current cut-off date means that all EB5 applicants from that country can move forward in the immigrant visa process, regardless of their priority date.
There are two kinds of cutoff dates: dates for filing and final action dates.
Dates for filing limits when investors can send their visa petitions to the National Visa Center (see below), and final action dates restrict when they can receive their visas.
The Type of Investment
The investment model an EB5 applicant chooses can influence processing times. There are two kinds of investments: direct and regional centers.
Moreover, investments can also be categorized as targeted employment area (TEA) projects or non-TEA projects.
TEAs are locations determined by Congress to be in need of economic development and available jobs. TEAs are either rural or have high unemployment.
Rural TEAs house less than 20,000 inhabitants, do not border a municipality with a population over 20,000, and are not within a metropolitan statistical area (MSA).
To classify as a high-unemployment TEA, a region must exhibit an unemployment rate of 150% of the national average. (Certain infrastructure projects can also qualify for TEA status.)
USCIS grants priority I-526 petition processing to investors in rural TEA projects. This can be of interest to investors from historically high-demand countries, such as India.
By investing in a rural TEA, the EB5 processing time Indian investors experience can be shorter.
How the EB5 Processing Time Indian Applicants Face Has Changed
The EB5 processing time Indian investors currently face is quicker than it has been in the past.
In previous years, visa retrogression, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the regional center program’s lapse slowed or even halted processing for countless Indian applicants.
As mentioned above, countries with particularly high EB-5 visa demand often create processing backlogs, which lead to a cut-off date set for investors.
Only investors whose priority date falls on or before the cut-off date are eligible for an EB-5 visa.
From July 2019 to June 2020, India was subject to final action dates every month, reaching as far back as 2014 in August 2019.
Fortunately, India is no longer experiencing visa retrogression, and investors with any priority date are eligible for a visa.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS shut down its offices and canceled all visa appointments, delaying EB5 timelines for many investors.
U.S. consulates and embassies suspended routine visa services as well, meaning investors could not attend visa appointments.
Similarly, the regional center program’s lapse in June 2021 left many pending I-526 petitions in limbo and prevented prospective investors from filing their applications.
Fortunately, the pandemic has subsided, and the EB-5 Regional Center Program has been reauthorized under the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act.
What are the Various Steps and EB5 Processing Times Indian Applicants Face?
The I-526 Petition
The first step in the EB5 investment process is filing Form I-526, which must demonstrate that the applicant has met all USCIS regulations.
The best course of action for investors is to hire a reliable EB5 immigration attorney to guide them through the preparation process.
I-526 petition approval means the applicant can obtain a conditional two-year immigrant visa for U.S. residency. Thereafter, investors can be eligible to receive a permanent Green Card.
The time it takes to process I-526 petitions fluctuates often depending on the volume of applications and visa availability.
The more people who file Form I-526, the more will be eligible for a visa, which can lead to backlogs and longer wait times due to EB5 visa constraints.
The complexity of a case and the service center to which it is submitted can also impact the processing time.
The estimated EB5 wait time Indian applicants face for the I-526 petition as of June 2022 is 48.5 months.
However, processing can be shorter or longer—this is merely an estimate.
The current filing fee is $3,675, which is subject to adjustments, so investors are encouraged to check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee before filing.
Form DS-260 and the I-485 Petition
Upon I-526 petition approval, EB5 visa applicants who are not in the United States must go through consular processing and file Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration.
This petition is filed with the U.S. consulate or embassy in the investor’s home country and is sent to the National Visa Center.
Once approved, the applicant receives conditional permanent resident status. Consular processing typically takes 6 to 12 months to complete.
The process is slightly different for EB5 investors already residing in the U.S. Instead of Form DS-260, investors in the U.S. file Form I-485, which is used for adjustment of status to an EB-5 visa.
Form I-485 can be submitted concurrently with Form I-526.
Filing these petitions concurrently can grant the EB-5 applicant permission to live and work in the United States even before they receive an EB-5 visa; in essence, their adjustment of status could be carried out soon after the petitions are filed.
There is a filing fee of $1,140 and an $85 biometrics fee for Form I-485.
Form I-485 is initially submitted to USCIS for adjustment of status, not to the National Visa Center.
The I-829 Petition
Viewed as the last step for EB5 visa applicants, Form I-829 is filed at the end of an investor’s two-year conditional residency period.
The petition must demonstrate to USCIS that the investor has met all EB-5 program requirements.
Once the I-829 petition is approved, the investor’s conditional residency restriction is removed, and the investor, their spouse, and unmarried children under 21 can live in the United States permanently.
EB5 investors must file their I-829 petition within the last 90 days of their conditional residency period.
It is strongly recommended to begin preparing in advance, because if USCIS does not receive the petition within the 90-day time frame, the investor jeopardizes their chances of obtaining permanent resident status.
An investor’s conditional resident status will be extended while their I-829 petition is being reviewed by USCIS.
The average EB5 wait time Indian applicants currently face is several years; as of June 2022, the USCIS processing times page indicates an estimated wait time of 57 months.
The current filing fee is $3,750, with a biometrics fee of $85.
What is the Cut-Off Date for Indian Applicants?
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) releases a monthly Visa Bulletin that indicates cut-off dates through a final action dates chart and dates for filing chart.
As of the June 2022 Visa Bulletin, India is not subject to a cut-off date.
Therefore, the EB5 priority date India for each investor does not restrict when they can receive their immigrant visas.
At the same time, there is currently a high volume of Indian EB-5 investors with an I-526 priority date.
India’s demand for the EB-5 visa may become so high that investors will once again face delays based on their priority date.
To avoid being subject to dates for filing or final action dates, Indian investors are advised to begin the EB-5 process promptly.
What Indian Investors Can Expect During the EB-5 Process
While the EB-5 immigration process from start to finish often takes several years, the EB5 wait time Indian applicants currently face is shorter than in previous years.
Without petition backlogs or visa retrogression affecting India, eligibility for an EB5 visa is not restricted based on a priority date.
Indian investors with an I-526 priority date will be able to receive immigrant visas from the National Visa Center without worrying about dates for filing or final action dates—as long as their I-526 petitions are approved.
Indian nationals interested in the EB-5 program can take the next step by booking a call with EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) to learn more.