I-526 processing time

Every month USCIS publishes Processing Time Information for the Immigrant Investor Program Office. The update just published indicates that as of October 31, 2017, IPO was processing I-526 filed on  November 21, 2015, I-829 filed on September 2, 2015, and I-924 filed on October 18, 2015. This is bad news, considering that previous reports indicated that IPO had progressed passed those dates months ago.  USCIS only publishes one month at a time, but I log the reports to track trends. Here’s a clip from my IPO Times Log showing the current report compared with recent reports.

I think the bouncing dates reflect two facts: (1) that the IPO processing report dates are never very exact, because IPO has a complex multi-step multi-track process that prevents keeping petitions in strict FIFO order; (2) that the Q4 2015 filing surge has been difficult to process (due to quantity and quality problems). I’ll guess that IPO issued a lot of RFEs earlier in the year on October/November 2015 petitions, moved on to December 2015 petitions while waiting for responses, and has now updated the processing report to reflect the fact that they’re again occupied with earlier petitions that received RFE responses. Or maybe the report update just means “oops, we recalculated our mysterious processing times report formula and concluded that we aren’t actually as far along as we said before.” This has happened several times before, according my report log.

In her published remarks for the 11/7/2017 EB-5 stakeholder meeting, IPO Deputy Chief Julia Harrison discussed the wait time for I-526 petitions filed in 2015.

Q: What is USCIS’s best estimate of the wait times for form I-526 petitions filed in 2015?

Response: The posted processing time is the best indication of a petitioner’s position in the queue. The actual adjudication time for any individual petition can vary based on: its position in the queue, the quality (and hence the adjudication time required) for prior petitions in the queue, and the quality and clarity (i.e. credibility of the evidence presented) in the individual’s petition. If RFEs or NOIDs are required they can significantly add to the time required to adjudicate a petition.

Also, if the investment project is first presented to USCIS on an I-526, the adjudication may have additional due diligence needs pertaining to the investment project which may require an RFE and any additional processing time will vary depending on the facts and complexity of each case.

Ms. Harrison’s answer focuses on case-specific factors that contribute to individual processing times. For general predictions about I-526, I think it’s helpful to step away from individual detail and think about processing as a capacity question. Petition data indicates that there were an average of 19,700 I-526 petitions pending at IPO in Q4 2015, and IPO has processed an average of 2,700 petitions per quarter since then.  Dividing inventory by flow rate gives an estimate for the time to push all inventory through the system. 19,700 petitions / 2,700 petitions per quarter = 7.3 quarters. If it takes 7.3 quarters or 22 months to adjudicate all petitions that were at IPO in Q4 2015, then we’d expect petitions filed that quarter to have a processing time around 22 months on average. That’s consistent with the IPO times reports (19 to 23 months for Q4 2015 petitions so far).  You can download my I-526 Times spreadsheet (Happy Christmas dear blog readers from Suzanne) for a model that compiles relevant data and allows entering a priority date to get a rough processing time prediction. According to the model, I-526 petitions filed in 2016 and 2017 can expect to wait about 20 months for processing, on average. (I didn’t make a prediction model for I-829 because the recent volume trends have been too erratic for a simple waiting line formula, and didn’t make a model for I-924 because USCIS doesn’t publish data for I-924 pending or processed petitions. And if someone assembles a better version of the I-526 model, please share.)

In addition to the spreadsheet model, I also keep updating my IPO Times Quotes document with communications from USCIS regarding processing times. Consult this if you want to see what IPO has said recently about how they organize petition processing, and factors that affect petition processing times.

About Suzanne (www.lucidtext.com)
Suzanne Lazicki is a business plan writer, EB-5 expert, and founder of Lucid Professional Writing.

24 Responses to I-526 processing time

  1. Minh says:

    Will an approved I-924 help shorten processing time of I-526?

    • Communications from IPO (in the document linked to my post) at least indicate that I-526 processing times can be longer if IPO is seeing a project for the first time (ie there’s no approved I-924 and no previously-approved I-526). I’m not sure how much exemplar approvals can shorten times, however.

      • Johnson says:

        FYI: I filed I-526 with an exemplar project in April and got I-526 approval in December…

      • Fareed says:

        Hi johnson….can u pls elaborate which year you filed and how much time it took for you to get approved…are u talking april 2016 or 2017

      • Johnson says:

        Filed in April 2017 and approved in December 2017.
        Not sure what is going on in my case that made it happen so fast.

        However it doesn’t really help me since I’m from China.

  2. RC says:

    Hi Suzanne, Your blog is a good source of information, and is much appreciated. The processing time updates are always confusing, but guess it is the oldest file which is being reviewed / re reviewed. Just wanted to share, a petitioner who had a priority date of June 2016, did receive an I 526 approval in Dec 2017, which shows a lead time of about 18 months.

    • RC says:

      Correction – I did read the dates wrong. Petition filed in Oct 2016, received an I526 approval in Dec 2017. Lead time of about 14 months.

      • Raed says:

        Dear RC
        I’m very interested to learn about this, where it shows that Oct 2016 petition got an approved I 526 in December 2017 ?
        I’m in the same boat, as my file was submitted in Sept 2016, please advise your source of details
        Thank you

      • choijennifer says:

        I submitted my petition in June 2016. According to the spreadsheet it will take a predicted 20 months – or Feb 2018. Anyone have experiences of approval after June 2016? Will they be approved sooner or later than 20 months?

      • megha patel says:

        Hi, Can you share whether you have filled through Direct Investment or Regional center?

      • choijennifer says:

        Regional Center

      • SK says:

        RC, I am very curious to know where you got this information from ? Does that mean that there is a cherry picking process in play ? Can anyone shine any light on how an Oct 2016 application can be processed “out of queue” ?

        Suzanne, Any comments on the processing methodology ?

      • SK — IPO has consistently said that they try to provide more-or-less first-come-first-served service (see the “IPO Times Quotes” document linked in my post above for detail), but we know that in fact quite a few petitions end up getting processed earlier than others. In October 2017, the Department of State reported that they already had nearly 2,000 EB-5 visa applications with priority dates after 2015, which means that USCIS must have approved over 600 petitions from 2016/17 even as they reported they were working on 2015 priority dates. Some of this might be due to expedite requests, but I suspect that IPO’s process is just too complex to keep petitions in line. (DOS report in this post https://blog.lucidtext.com/2017/10/26/visa-numbers-update-vietnam-india-tea-reform-proposal-rc-audit-change/)

  3. Rommy says:

    Hi Suzanne, I need your help to understand few things which I have just read. Can approved regional center be considered an exemplar one ? My understanding is regional center considered approved only when associated I 924 of the RC is approved. Is that correct ?

    • There are two contexts for filing I-924: for initial designation as a regional center, and with an “exemplar” project for project pre-approval. A regional center must be approved before I-526 can be filed. The regional center is not exemplar; a project can be “exemplar” if I-526 paperwork is filed with a Form I-924 initial review in advance of being filed with real investor I-526 petitions.

  4. RC says:

    Dear Raed, the approval is of a petitioner, whom i know. He received Approval Notice from USCIS. However, I also have a friend who filed petition in Sep 2016, but not received approval as yet. I was informed the delay could be because of the back log with the processing officer. Both the applicants were for the same project.

  5. Dubai guide says:

    Dear Suzanne, first of all, thank you very much for your blog on EB-5, It is the definitive source for all information related to EB-5 rules & regulations.
    I wanted to seek your opinion on the matter of the waiting line for mainland chinese investors, which will consequently affect other Nationals also. Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP in their Dec 17 2017 post on their website (https://wolfsdorf.com/blog/why-january-2018-eb5-visa-number-unavailable/)

    “There is however some potential good news for mainland Chinese investors in the EB-5 waiting line. A new bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives called the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to: (1) eliminate the per country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants and (2) modify the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992 to eliminate the provision requiring the reduction of annual Chinese immigrant visas to offset status adjustments under such Act.”

    From what I could gather on the web, HR 392 is only related EB-2 & EB-3 category folks – The high skilled ones. Unlike Eb-5 investors, where high skill is not a requirement. I was puzzled why Wolfsdorf would post such a statement, unless there are some rumblings within congress whereby they are trying to bunch up the EB-5s with the EB-2 & EB3s. Have you heard anything in this regard? Thank you.

  6. Hi Suzanne,
    Congratulations for your blog. Very amazing information resource.

    Can you help me? I´m doing a job presentation and I need to know how many Brazilians got the EB5 visa in 2017. I found about (2015 and 2016, 34 and 150) but coudn´t find anything about 2017.
    Do you know something about? Or where can I find it?
    Regards
    Francisco

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