What does it mean when an I-526 petition is pending with the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO)?
When an I-526 petition is pending, it has been filed but not yet adjudicated. The Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) is the office within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that is responsible for overseeing the EB-5 program and adjudicating EB-5 petitions, including Form I-526.
Before March 31, 2020, USCIS (or the IPO) adjudicated I-526 petitions on a first-in, first-out basis. In other words, the IPO adjudicated these petitions in the order in which it received them. In 2020, USCIS changed to a “visa availability” approach: the IPO first processes petitions from investors for whom a visa is available or for whom a visa will soon be available. However, it does still honor expedite requests regardless of the availability of visas for the petitioner’s country of birth.
USCIS bases its visa availability decisions on information published in the Department of State Monthly Visa Bulletin. Form I-526 lists the investor’s country of birth, which is compared to Chart B of the Visa Bulletin, which shows whether visas are available for that country. Until a visa becomes available, the petition will be listed as pending. If an investor wants to gauge when their petition might be processed, they can visit the USCIS Processing Times page. They can also use the Case Status Online portal to follow up on the status of their case.
The visa availability approach benefits EB-5 investors from countries with visas available, as it can shorten the adjudication queue. Additionally, it benefits petitioners from countries experiencing backlogs who have children who are at risk of aging out of the program. The number of days the petition remained pending is subtracted from the child’s age once the petition is adjudicated, which means the child’s age is effectively “frozen” while the petition remains pending. After adjudication, the clock starts ticking again, so if the bulk of the delay occurs at this point, it increases the risk of aging out.