EB-5 Processing Times and What to Expect

Updated: June 23, 2024

WRITTEN BY

EB-5 Insider Team

A group of professionals with years of experience helping people immigrate to the US

Note: This article is for informational purposes only. We are not providing legal advice or selling securities. The articles and content on this site are of a general informational nature only and should not be relied upon for individual circumstances.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program provides a path to permanent residency and U.S. citizenship through investment. Foreign investors can qualify for a green card by investing $800,000 or $1,050,000 in a new commercial enterprise or regional center that will create at least 10 full-time jobs. Return reforms drastically reduce EB-5 processing times. 

EB-5 visas have recently undergone extensive reforms under the EB-5 Investor Program Reform and Integrity Act (RIA) to make the program more appealing to foreign investors with additional protections and faster processing. The RIA has also helped to address the EB-5 visa backlog, with processing times for USCIS petitions varying depending on the number of pending applications and each visa category. It’s a common trend that EB-5 visas are now being processed faster since the implementation of the RIA. I-526 forms are experiencing processing times of as little as three months. Understanding EB-5 processing times can help you set realistic expectations and know what to expect before you start your EB-5 visa journey.

Current Processing Times for I-526 and I-829

The Immigration Petition by Standalone Investor, Form I-526, is one of the first steps to obtaining your conditional green card through the EB-5 visa program.

Previously, the processing time for I-526 petitions was as high as 50 months, depending on the applicant’s country of origin. Since the RIA, I-526 petitions have been processed considerably faster as the Investor Program Office has become more efficient and applicants utilize set-aside or reserved visas.

At the opposite end of the EB-5 visa process is the I-829 application. It’s the final step to becoming a lawful permanent resident. The conditions of residency are removed to allow the investor and their family to permanently remain in the United States with a renewable green card every ten years.

An EB-5 investor must file their I-829 petition with USCIS within 90 days before their conditional green card expires. Their conditional residency will be extended while the I-829 petition is being processed. Failing to submit your I-829 petition on time could result in your green card expiring and potential deportation. Processing times for I-829 petitions vary anywhere from 2 to 4 years. An investor’s conditional green card will be extended for two years to facilitate their I-829 petition being processed, with a further one-year extension if necessary.

Factors Affecting EB-5 Processing Times

Estimating the processing time for EB-5 visas is difficult as several factors may impact their processing. The USCIS website will provide the most updated estimate for processing times. Factors that will impact the processing time for an EB-5 visa include:

Where the EB-5 Investor is Applying From

The EB-5 investor application process is slightly different for candidates legally residing in the United States at the time of their application compared to those living abroad. EB-5 visa applicants who reside in the United States do not need to return to their home country for consulate interviews.

Demand Outstretches Supply

USCIS makes 10,000 EB-5 visas available every year. However, the number of EB-5 visa applications continues to rise year-on-year as the program becomes more accessible and transparent. The limited number of EB-5 visas creates a backlog, increasing processing time. As investors can apply for permanent residency for their spouse and any qualifying children, this also increases the number of petitions for processing.

To streamline processing, USCIS may enforce cut-off dates for investors from countries with a backlog of applications for when they can apply for their conditional green cards. This often means that EB-5 investors from backlogged countries face significantly longer wait times than those with lower demand. China and India have some of the longest waits for EB-5 visas.

Expedited Processing

The USCIS can grant a new commercial enterprise with an expedited status if it meets certain criteria. Investing in a new commercial enterprise in a TEA, area of high unemployment, or infrastructure project can reduce processing times for EB-5 visas by a year.

Strategies to Expedite Processing

The purpose of RIA was to make underserved rural appear more appealing for EB-5 investors to direct their funding and job creation. EB-5 investors will have a faster processing time if they choose a reserved or set-aside visa for a rural investment, infrastructure project, or area of high unemployment. 32% of the 10,000 EB-5 visas are now reserved for these projects.

Investors from countries like India and China have significantly reduced their EB-5 processing time by choosing one of these reserved visas. Typically, countries are only allocated up to 7% of EB-5 visas, but they face higher demand than investors from other countries due to limited employment-based visa options. This is one of the main reasons for the extreme backlog of some EB-5 visa applications pre-RIA.

Choosing Rural Set-Aside Visas

Rural investments have the largest portion of set-aside visas (20%) with relatively low demand, making them one of the best strategies for EB-5 investors looking to expedite their processing time. These visas are likely to remain available longer, qualify for the lower minimum investment amount of $800,000, and are less likely to have a backlog.

Concurrent Filing

The other strategy for expediting your EB-5 visa processing is to utilize concurrent filing, introduced by the RIA, to reduce the processing time drastically. Concurrent filing is available for EB-5 visas who are already residing in the United States on a non-immigrant visa, for example, an E-2 visa. It allows investors to simultaneously file their Form I-526E and Form I-485 for adjustment of status to apply for lawful permanent residency. Previously, individuals in the United States on a non-immigrant visa could not file their I-495 until their I-526/I-526E was approved, which meant they couldn’t apply for travel or work permits, putting them in limbo for years during their EB-5 visa processing.

Most EB-5 investors who utilize concurrent processing have their travel and work authorization processed before their I-425 petition, usually getting approval in just a few weeks. The RIA has made it easier for investors to transition from an E-2 to an EB-5 visa, which may be the fastest way to receive permanent residency.

What to Do If There Are Delays

Delays can happen at any stage of the EB-5 visa process. We recommend working with an immigration attorney to keep you informed throughout the process, including if you experience delays.

There are currently limited options for proactive steps EB-5 investors can take if they find themselves experiencing prolonged processing times. It’s possible to seek relief from a U.S. federal district court by having them compel the USCIS to adjudicate on your I-526/I-526E and I-829 application.

What is a Petition of Mandamus

A petition of mandamus is usually a last resort, but it is the common option if USCIS persistently and unexplainedly delays the case.

This legal resource involves a federal district court mandating that the USCIS fulfill its duty to adjudicate the I-526E or I-829 application as an unreasonable delay has caused harm to the investor. You’ll need to seek legal advice from a specialist immigration attorney before proceeding with a petition of mandamus.

Determining what constitutes ‘harm’ for an EB-5 investor is difficult as it will vary between cases. Your immigration attorney should clearly state and explain the extent of ‘harm’ you have experienced due to the delays when they are drafting the complaint.

Although technically a lawsuit, a petition of mandamus differs from traditional litigation as it does not have a discovery process with document requests and depositions. It is faster and more affordable than normal litigation. Most mandamus petitions are based on an individual’s underlying immigrant petition and will include any correspondence between the government and the applicant. If a federal court grants a writ of mandamus, the USCIS is required to adjudicate on the application. However, it does not guarantee a particular outcome for your application process. A mandamus is not always the best option to speed up EB-5 processing for every investor, as your application will likely be subjected to additional scrutiny. If you have experienced difficulty with job creation, you may want to avoid filing a mandamus complaint.

Alternative Options

USCIS has adjudication delay processes that your immigration attorney can help you utilize to reduce the likelihood of delays. Ensuring that all your documentation is accurate and that your chosen project is legitimate and likely to meet the job creation requirements can ensure that your EB-5 visa is processed as efficiently as possible.

Gain U.S. Permanent Residence Through Investment

Investment is one of the fastest ways to gain permanent residency in the U.S.. If you’re from a country with limited visa options or have dependents, an EB-5 visa is your best option to gain permanent residency with a path to citizenship.

The RIA reforms to the EB-5 visa mean applications are being processed faster. You can obtain residency with a $800,000 investment in a project that will create at least 10 full-time jobs. Our guide above will help you choose the best EB-5 visa route to streamline your processing time and get your green card as soon as possible.

At EB-5 Insider, we simplify your path to U.S. residency and citizenship through investment, working with foreign nationals and high-net-worth individuals. We’ll help you obtain a permanent U.S. green card for yourself, your spouse, and any unmarried children under 21 for an investment of $800,000.Start applying for an EB-5 visa today, or contact our team for more information.

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