USCIS has announced that processing times for I-924 applications are approximately 4.4 months. This is consistent with USCIS’ goal of four month processing times for I-924 applications. For those interested in venturing into the EB-5 industry, this is welcome news and will go a long way to reducing barriers to entry in the EB-5 industry. The reduction of I-924 application processing times should allow more areas around the United States to receive the benefits of the EB-5 program and investors should have more choice when deciding where to invest.
Additionally, it seems that EB-5 Program Director Nicholas Colucci is making good on his word. In February of 2014, during a telephonic engagement with USCIS stakeholders, Colucci indicated that he believed processing times for I-924 applications and I-526 petitions would be reduced as the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IIPO) ramped up staffing levels. Colucci indicated that he expected to have up to 100 staff trained and ready to adjudicate at the IIPO by September 30, 2014. It appears he is receiving a return on his staff sooner than expected. Unfortunately, this return on his staff does not extend to I-526 petitions, which are currently processing at approximately 12.4 months, which is four months greater than USCIS’ stated goal.
Despite all the optimism of this announcement, newly-approved regional centers should review the differences between hypothetical, actual and exemplar approval of an I-924 application. Many of these recent I-924 application approvals are approved as “hypothetical projects.” Approval as a hypothetical project does not provide the benefits of an actual or exemplar approval and may provide regional centers with a false sense of security regarding USCIS’ view of their project. A hypothetical approval by definition does not contain a business plan which complies with the requirements of Matter of Ho. Accordingly, these newly-approved regional centers should consult with their immigration counsel prior to filing any I-526 petitions with respect to their projects.