I-526 processing time (Part I)

Update: See also my followup post How long does I-526 take? (Part II)

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, assuming basically first-come-first-served processing. (But note that anecdotal evidence suggests huge variation in actual times from a few weeks to many years, so IPO’s process apparently isn’t as orderly as it tries to be. 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. If you have personal experience to share, please enter it in this Google form. You can view form responses so far in this spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1xjbYYrb6taz1j6G8JSbshNTLVJ5u0zhirBdSg6K4zTY/edit#gid=1725165840

Benefit from this blog? Please consider supporting the effort behind it. As the EB-5 industry changes, your contribution can help preserve this space for conscientious and freely-available EB-5 reporting. Donations go to Lucid Professional Writing (a for-profit business) to fund work on this blog. Thank you!

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

48 Responses to I-526 processing time (Part I)

  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.

      • Bigshort says:

        Thats pretty fast approval for the 526 stage

  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.

  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.

      • Rommy says:

        Thank you for your response, Understood now, 1 more thing ,Do you have a link or data available to show how many I 526 been approved per regional center so far ? I know USCIS published this in a past and removed it , but wanted to see if you have previously reported data available somewhere.
        thanks

      • EB5 Projects re-posted the data originally published and then removed by USCIS (https://eb5projects.com/i526-approved-denied-forms). Just keep in mind that these are the uncorrected numbers.

      • Rommy says:

        Thank you for your help ! , I was able to locate the regional center data with whom I have pending I 526 .

      • Ash K says:

        The link you have posted from eb5projects.com about the acceptance/denials is so valuable. I have been researching for a few months and couldn’t come across that data-which i was badly looking for. You should start a paid-membership site. people like me will gladly pay for your research.

      • Thank you for the encouragement! And by the way, I should emphasize that I don’t post that acceptance/denials list myself because USCIS withdrew it due to errors. You can use it for general reference, but keep the fact of errors in mind. (At least, the denial statistics are off because the USCIS database classifies withdrawn petitions as denials.)

  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

  7. Art says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    Thanks for your blog and your efforts on providing the most updated info.
    Some fresh info for you and other petitioners who are not from China. Couple of days ago I got surprisingly quick approval of my I-526 (notice issued on 05 Jan 2018, in less than 15 weeks, which may be record time – priority date is 29 Sep 2017). We are really lucky. Now I see the Visa Bulletin for Feb 2018 shows “Unavailable” for EB-5 visas. Could you please advise what it really means and what is the most realistic date for Consular processing and visa interview?

    • Wow, that is fast for I-526 approval! Very interesting! The Feb 2018 visa bulletin shows “unavailable” for RC visas because of the upcoming RC program sunset date on Feb 8. When the RC program is authorized past February, then the “U” will change to “C” in the Feb 2018 Visa Bulletin for RC visas.

    • Springfield Services says:

      Congratulations Art on speedy 526 processing . What project were you subscribing too. I read elsewhere that certain categories of projects were getting approvals faster. Would be interesting to know which category yours falls under.

      • Art says:

        For sure, it has exemplar 526 and in terms of petion approvals number it is one of the top most approved regional center projects in NYC area.

      • Springfield Services says:

        Nice, I am assuming it’s the Related companies project then.

    • Ash K says:

      Wow that is really quick, which Regional center did you apply under?

    • Bigshort says:

      Congrats on quick approval

  8. L A says:

    I am wondering how can someone without any expedite process get their I-526 approval in 15 weeks. May be a special project or a using a lawyer who knows their way around the legal system. This is almost a miracle. Congratulations.

  9. L A says:

    As a non Chinese, my friend did his investment under regional center exampler project a little over 13 months ago and hasn’t had any communication on his I-526 approval. That is why I feel it’s a miracle getting an I-526 approval in 15 weeks that is approximately 3.5 months. Remarkable.

  10. Sasi says:

    Hi Suzanne, Thanks for the updates and good info on EB5..I see faster approvals for RC..I have filed my case in Direct investment in Mar2017..do you or any see any recent approvals? I see Direct investment is taking much longer than RC..do you know usually how longer will be the processing time for Direct? your inputs are more appreciated

    • If you read Julia Harrison’s comments at the last stakeholder meeting (copied in the Word document linked to this post), she says two things about direct I-526 processing (1) that direct petitions are in a separate queue and adjudicated by a separate team from regional center petitions; (2) that the direct EB-5 team leader communicates with the RC side about the dates being processed on the RC side, to try to keep adjudications in tandem. So apparently their intent is to keep processing times about the same for direct and RC petitions. But anecdotal evidence suggest that this ideal often isn’t accomplished.

    • raj says:

      hi sasi can u send me your contact details this is raj to discuss on direct investment even i have invested on direct eb 5 april 2017

  11. Sasi says:

    Hi Suzzane, sorry I did not get the word document link, can you please repost it?

  12. D says:

    Suzanne

    I have a suggestion. Could you start a crowd-sourced page or excel database where people can post certain essential information about their approved petitions such as their country of birth, I-526 filing date, I-526 approval date, whether the project was exemplar, etc.?
    (You can design it with the appropriate column headings.) Disclosure of the name of the project can be optional. A centralized database like this will help everyone. Thank you.

  13. Anil says:

    Hello Suzanne,

    I am very much pleased and excited to see this level of information coming out of your experience and knowledge in the EB5 arena. Thanks for putting all this together, which is helping people like me and everyone else to understand the current situation and political cloud around the EB5 processing and timelines.

    What I do not understand is, USCIS states that the applications will be processed as per the country limits and by the date on which they were filled. When China has a long waiting queue, in the excel spread sheet where people log details like when they applied and the date on which they got the I526 approval on your blog, had seen people from countries with long waiting lines, are processed earlier then people from countries without queues.

    Example an person from China who applied in 2017 got his I526 approved in Jan 2018. How would this be possible? Can you please provide your valuable insights on this. Thank you.

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