Applying data to questions (I-526 timing, visa timing)

This post applies data that’s recently become available to practical questions that EB-5 issuers and past/potential investors keep asking. [FYI: many edits made since first posting.]

Question 1: How long does I-526 take?

This question has a nice answer for new petitioners: much less time than before.

As inventory falls and flow rate increases, processing times fall. People who filed I-526 in 2016/2017 entered at the top of a mountain of pending petitions (as illustrated in Figure 1), and have suffered long processing times as a result. But people who file I-526 now in November 2018 are just standing on a molehill by comparison, plus benefiting from improved completion rates. They can expect their petitions to be processed in less than a year, I estimate. (I estimate processing times based on USCIS data for pending and processed petitions. See my I-526 time spreadsheet.)

As I-526 times improve, the many countries in the world with no visa wait (all but China, Vietnam, and (soon) India) will be able to enjoy EB-5 as a fast track once again. And project companies, investors, and program integrity all benefit from prompt attention by USCIS to investor petitions.

Question 2: If I’m a Vietnam-born person with pending I-526 or pending visa application, how long can I expect to wait for EB-5 visa availability?

This question has a better answer than many people fear. Last month when Charles Oppenheim of Department of State predicted a 7.2-year wait for Vietnam-born, he was giving a prediction for one point: people filing I-526 on October 30, 2018. If that point-in-time prediction is correct, then the wait time will be less than that for everyone who filed I-526 before October 30, 2018. The blue columns in Figure 3 mark the data points we have: actual wait times for past applicants (calculated by subtracting Final Action Date from Visa Bulletin Date in past Visa Bulletins), and Oppenheim’s future predictions. Fit a trend line through those points, and you can estimate wait times for other priority dates, between the past actual and future predictions. (The trend won’t turn out neatly linear in real life, but I think this is good for a rough estimate. If you want a better trend line, you can factor in quarterly fluctuations in I-526 filing and approvals, and guidelines for allocating visas by quarter. Or you could push for legislative/administrative fixes that would change the picture entirely.) These charts and source data are in the “Vietnam Calc” tab of my Backlog calculation spreadsheet.

[NOTE: When I first put up this post, I included a Figure 2 for China with linear trend through past visa bulletin waits for 2014 priority dates up through Oppenheim’s 14-year prediction for Chinese filing in October 2018. But the more I thought about it, the more I disliked the China chart — because that 14-year estimate for 10/2018 is questionable, and because complicating factors will likely make the China trend look more like the craggy mountain in Figure 1 than a slope. So I edited out Figure 2.]

Question 3: If I’m an India-born person with pending I-526 or pending visa application, can I expect to get a visa number in FY2019, before visas for India get used up for the year (i.e. before Department of State sets a Final Action Date for India)?

This question is tough, because the answer depends on predicting which petitions get adjudicated in the next few months, and how many. Table 1 and Table 2 below highlight the data points (from among those provided in the 10/30/2018 presentation by Charles Oppenheim) that I consider particularly relevant to the question. (These tables are also in the “India Calc” tab of my Backlog calculation spreadsheet.)

The worst case scenario is that in the next couple quarters, USCIS approves a lot of the I-526 pending for India-born people who filed I-526 in 2013-2017. If that happens (and the newly-approved petitioners quickly become documentarily qualified for a visa), the result could be that no one born in India who filed I-526 more recently will get a visa number in FY2019, no matter how quickly their I-526 was/will be processed or when they filed I-485 or the visa application. This risk exists because visa numbers get issued to qualified applicants in order by priority date, not based on when they filed their visa applications. The risk is accentuated by the fact that Charles Oppenheim at DOS is required by statute to dole out available visas gradually over the course of the fiscal year (no more than about 27% each quarter in the first three quarters), not all at once to as many people as qualify for them. That delay gives time for the pool of documentarily qualified applicants to grow, as USCIS approves more petitions.

The best case scenario is that in the next couple quarters, the pool of India-born people qualified for a visa doesn’t grow much, and additions to the pool mainly consist of people who filed I-526 recently. In that case, everyone already qualified for a visa as of Q1 FY2019 (500+ people) could actually get a visa in FY2019. Plus a few more people (about 60 investors with their families) who will get I-526 approval and become documentarily qualified in FY2019 may also get allocated visas before the approx 700 visas available for FY2019 run out. The best case scenario is possible because expedited projects have been popular with Indians, USCIS can be slow to process older I-526 (and has a lot of older petitions in the backlog from countries besides India), and the process between I-526 approval and becoming documentarily qualified can also be very slow.

The facts in Table 1 and Table 2 suggest to me that an India-born person filing I-526 today is unlikely to get a visa number in FY2019, regardless of how quickly they can get I-526 approval and qualified for a visa. There are just so many older petitions and applications already in the system. I don’t have my life savings and family on the line, however.  If you do have a major life decision depending on EB-5 timing, you should spend more time with the reports and spreadsheets to make your own estimate between the best and worst case possibilities. And talk with the immigration lawyer about limitations and benefits of being at various points in the process (I-526 pending, I-526 approved but not yet documentarily qualified, I-485 pending, documentarily qualified at NVC…) at the time when DOS publishes a Final Action Date for India.

For anyone who doesn’t manage to get a visa number in FY2019, don’t be too discouraged. India will have a trend line, like Vietnam as discussed above. You don’t automatically wait 5.7 years for a visa by virtue of having been born in India. Your wait time will depend on your priority date, with dates before October 2018 promising shorter wait time.

My post EB-5 Visa Waiting Line and Visa Allocation explains in more detail how visa allocation works. FYI, the Telegram group https://t.me/EB5VisaGroup notified me that they assembled their own India prediction spreadsheet. I’m not posting it here because I don’t know how to explain all their calculations and sources, but you can reach out to the group to request their additional analysis.

To the extent that my analysis and reporting benefits your decision-making, please consider my PayPal contribution option (corrected link). My spreadsheets and posts take a lot of time and thought that can only be rewarded if others share their benefit. I hope the work helps my clients who need information, and an industry that needs transparency, but it’s a sacrifice for me personally as a service provider dependent on new EB-5 business.

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

36 Responses to Applying data to questions (I-526 timing, visa timing)

  1. HK says:

    Suzanne, you are doing an awesome job. I tried to contribute to your Paypal account, but got this message. Please do the needful. ” there is a problem with the PayPal email address supplied by the seller”

  2. Suzanne, you are a JEDI, thank you from the bottom of my heart and, more importantly, from the hearts of our investors trying to understand the mysteries of EB-5 processing!

  3. Chinese says:

    Charlie’s prediction of 14 years for Chinese investors contains obvious mathematical errors. In fact, it has been a consensus in China that Chinese investors who invest now have to wait at least 25-40+ years, assuming that there are no legislative changes.

    Charlie Oppenheim wrongly assumed that the number of applicants pending at NVC = the # of Chinese individuals pending at NVC. This is NOT true. In fact, Chinese investors will not be allowed to add their family members to the NVC list until a few months before their visa interview. Therefore, the NVC number largely underestimate the real wait list. As a result, the real number at NVC should be roughly doubled (if not tripled) to reflect the actual wait line. This can easily bump up the wait line to 25 years+.

    This case does not apply to non-Chinese investors. As of now, non-Chinese investors are allowed to add their family members to NVC immediately after I-526 approval. Therefore, their pending numbers at NVC can represent their actual wait list. China is a completely different story.

    • Thank you for this comment. When Charlie Oppenheim made his prediction, Robert Divine did speak up to say that the China numbers might be undercounted due to family members not having been listed in some I-526 filed before 2015. I’ll add that caution to my post. Also, we neglected to ask Charlie what assumptions he used about future rest-of-the-world demand.

  4. Chandra Ojha says:

    Suzanne.. as always, thank you for being so awesome

  5. mark breen says:

    Hi Suzanne, is there any indication what the wait time is for Ireland, as there are much fewer applications. I have a priority date of dec 2017

  6. Sameer Deshpande says:

    Suzanne, thanks for doing an outstanding job. You’re a great help. I myself was saying the same thing to my brother that it’s extremely unlikely that an Indian who filed today would get their temporary green card within 72 months of filing their petition, and today you said the same thing.

    “The facts in Table 1 and Table 2 suggest to me that an India-born person filing I-526 today is unlikely to get a visa number in FY2019, regardless of how quickly they can get I-526 approval and qualified for a visa. There are just so many older petitions and applications already in the system.”

    • AT says:

      Can you please elaborate why you think it would be more than 72 months for Indians? Total number of pending visas are 4000 + Indians, even if we only calculate allocated 700 visas per year, it should be anywhere in between 60-72 months, not considering some visas may be available to Indians from the balance pool.

      • Sameer Deshpande says:

        Hi AT,

        I spoke with a few regional center reps that recently visited India in the past 8 weeks, and they said that most Indian families have 4 family members per visa petition, and if this is correct, USCIS and US DoS figures are way off base. Even if it’s only 3 members per petition, it’s about 280 petitions per year before the Chinese gobble up the rest, and if 1633 petitions are pending, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that at LEAST 5000 visa numbers are going to be used up, if not 6500, which means that we’re looking at at least a 7 year wait to get the temporary green cards, if not 8-9 year waiting period.

        See https://www.eb5daily.com/eb-5-visa-filings-from-india/ and also the article posted by Suzanne on 10/25/2018 (Pending I-526 by country as of 10/2018).

        I’m beginning to think that Canada is a safer and faster option, because even if we choose EB-1C visas over EB-5 visas, it takes 2 years to get the permanent green card, and if we choose Canada, we’d get a permanent green card in about 6-8 months, and a Canadian passport in a lot less time than it takes us to get a temporary green card under the EB-5 visa scheme. Trump can keep his chaos and BS, and I’d rather vote with my wallet. Right now, I’m just waiting to see what happens in December, because if the USCIS increases the amount, EB-5 visas will anyway be unaffordable for all of us, and then we’ll have to choose between EB-1C category visas or Canada.

        • FYI the average number of family members per principal for India in the calculation is based on historical fact for visas issued in the last three years. I guess that the number is low on average thanks to the number of young Indians on H1B in the US transferring to EB-5.

          • Sameer Deshpande says:

            Suzanne, now most of the EB-5 visas are from India. What do you think is the number of visas each petition takes when it’s now H1B cases but now most of the cases are from India and have a bigger family size?

        • Chandra Ojha says:

          Sameer,

          I will give you a perspective which might help. So as you have mentioned, immigration difficulties for Indians is beyond anybody’s imagination. However I do not blame USA for it. Not Trump or any other politician. Fact is USA made all these rules before and same for all with 7% cap etc. Keep in mind that Indians have predominantly benefited from spillover EB2 and EB1 in the past. After Martin Luther King’s change of the course of human history, we have legally had same rights to immigration. What has happened in last 15 years, is just too many of us have come to US and choked the system.

          Now please keep in mind that I have been in this country since 2007, trained as a super-specialist doctor for 7 years, did something which has never been done contributing to many many American’s lives but when it comes to immigration and life, I am just a Visa slave. So finally I applied for EB5 ( with everything I have and secured loans) and is awaiting approval.

          In your case, it all depends on how important it is for you to be a US resident.

          1. If it is not very important, you can immigrate to Canada and lead a very good life in a country which in my opinion is better than USA on many perspective. Unfortunately for me, its not an option as I will have to go through licensing etc . Also in medicine, not much opportunities. However things might be different for people in IT and business.

          2. If US is so very important to you and your family, then you could move to Canada and wait for EB5 which I anticipate to be anywhere between 8 – 10 years if you apply now.

          I do not know why US Green card has become suddenly so lucrative and this mad rush choking the system. Must be something which US offers which other places don’t. Right ?

          • Sameer Deshpande says:

            Dr. Ojha, we’re looking at EB-1, through which we can get the permanent green card in about 2 years, as an alternative as we’re keeping our options open. I am personally leaning towards Canada, because it’s a cheap and easy workaround while my EB-2 visa is being processed.

          • Chandra Ojha says:

            Hope your Eb1C application succeeds. However as you are probably aware, what used to take few weeks is now taking 2-3 years. I have colleagues and friends, who have expedited Eb1A approved from March 2017 and still waiting for interview date. As per Chen ( predominant EB1 lawyer for Doctors) , they might have to wait till late 2019 or early 2020. Also Eb1C has lot more scrutiny now. Eb1C has been misused a lot, as you are aware. Good think in your favor is that you can possibly port your EB2 priority date.

  7. jafar says:

    Hi Suzzane,
    The “priority date” means the date the application was received at USCIS?

  8. Sentap says:

    I am applying for I-526. Sri Lankan Origin, a Canadian citizen. What will be my priority date both for I-526 and NVC and the visa allocation? Thank you.

  9. hao says:

    The DHS calculation is impossible to be correct. There is no way we can use simple linear regression for this backlog prediction. The correct estimation for Chinese invested today will be around 50 years, if no policy changes.

  10. Kelly says:

    Here is the mail from an EB-5 investor to Senators. FYI:
    Dear Dianne,

    I am learning that you introduced a bill with Senator Chuck Grassley that would terminate the EB-5 Regional Center Program. Thanks for your efforts for the good of EB-5. However, it might cause damage to EB-5 investors.

    If termination is a compelling choice in such a chaos and powerless situation, please show some mercy to us, hopeless EB-5 investors. Please add some additional policies to protect our money after termination. As far as I know, only a few regional centers have clear Sunset policies to refund investors within 3 years after termination. That means many investors have no refunding policies protection after termination. Please help clarify the refunding process and timelimit after termination.

    Speaking of refunding, many Chinese investors want to refund after knowing the truth of serious visa backlog problem. However, we were told that according to PPM we cannot get refunding until I829 submission or approval, or NCE due to dissolution, both or which take more time than waiting time caused by visa backlog. Now, in the name of PPM and 15+ years waiting time, regional centers can accupy our money forever, even though we want to give up green card application. Even when the first investment project have reached the refunding time, many regional centers can continue to redeploy our money to the 2nd project according to PPM, ignoring that some of us want to give up immigration process. They take advantage of the unfair PPM we signed before to exploit us endlessly. When we signed PPM before, we were not told the ture waiting time caused by visa backlog. I don’t believe US can tolerate such unfair and dishonest business behavior. Please help clarify the refunding process for those who want to give up immigration process, thus to clear US’s name.

    Thanks again

  11. harvey says:

    Investors estimate China-mainland born #EB5 waiting time is 31.8 years, but USCIS’s Immigrant Investor Program Office estimated it was 14 years. Which one is correct?

  12. Xiaoyan Hu says:

    How many decade do you have in your life? How many half million can you make in your life? Amazon will create 50,000 new jobs in the new headquarters and everybody applause its contribution, however EB5 investment created more than 500,000 jobs but have to wait decades backlog.1.long term backlog of 15-30 years 2.500 thousand dollars at risk for 15-30 years 3.shut down the EB5.These is serials fraud, Among those involved are the RC, the program, the lawyers, the immigration service, which helps stakeholders exploit investors by misinterpreting outdated laws. A group of people who want immgrant to USA legally, honesty, not too rich, hope of freedom, but they have to pay for their innocent thought, interested parties only want their money, government does not like them in, they maybe get neither card nor money at last! They suffer the separation of family,endless waiting ,loss of normal life planning, loss of life savings, lost hope for the future, if they are not for the country’s fair, just, free and universal love of longing, not to give children a better future, they could have a stable life, those greedy people how can you so many deceive and destroy so many people’s the good life?Are they Christians?Or are they demons?!God will punish them,I believe!Please help us,please

  13. Yiwei wang says:

    According Charlie ‘s Chinese backlog prediction, From 6 years, 9.8 years, 15 years, 14 years in last 2 years, So many Chinese become victims. from this lesson, We also suspect Vetland and Indian backlog time would be much longer, not as what Charlie .

    • Just keep in mind that this is a waiting line problem. It’s like the question: “How long does it take to get seated at the restaurant?” In just one evening, the steward gave these predictions: 5 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 10 minutes. All predictions were correct. How could that be? It was “5 minutes” to the person who came at 4 pm, “20 minutes” to the person who came at 5 pm, “40 minutes” to the person who came at 6 pm, and “10 minutes” to the person who came at 8 pm. Each person’s wait time depended on the number of other people waiting at a given point. Charlie’s predictions may be too short, but it’s no surprise that they vary since each is specific to a point in time, and the volume of other people waiting changes between points in time.

  14. VC says:

    Hello everyone.
    Sorry if it’s off topic.
    Does Suzanne or anybody else know approximate wait time for visa interview for EB-5? I am asking specifically about this stage of consular process. I heard it depends on how busy embassy is. But I try to understand approximate minimum maximum wait time. I will be going to London embassy, if it helps.
    Thank you very much for your help.

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