What do people mean when they say USCIS is “processing” or “adjudicating” an I-526 petition, and that the EB-5 “processing” times are taking more than a year? What exactly does USCIS have to do to process an I-526 application? Is this processing done online or on paper?
Processing of an I-526 petition or EB-5 case by USCIS means a USCIS officer in the EB-5 unit of USCIS will review an EB-5 investor's individual I-526 petition, including all project documents in which an EB-5 investor has invested (unless there is an approved I-924 petition and an exemplar I-526 filed by a regional center project, in which case USCIS will defer to the approval of the project documents and job creation model and will not re-review them as part of adjudicating of an individual I-526 petition). A USCIS officer will then make a decision on the case by either approving it, requesting additional evidence, or denying it. Because there are numerous I-526 petitions in line awaiting review, it is currently taking USCIS a longer time to adjudicate cases.
Processing means that the adjudicator will evaluate the project to determine if the requisite jobs will be created by the project, are the sources of the funds from a lawful source, and is the investor's background clear of any wrongdoing. The volume of applications and lack of adjudicators work to produce long backlogs.
The first step in the EB-5 immigration process is the preparation and filing of the I-526 petition. The I-526 petition includes the project and source of fund documentation. The I-526 petition has to be adjudicated and reviewed by the U.S. Immigration Service, and approved first before the investor can apply for conditional permanent residency.
The I-526 is the immigrant petition for an EB-5 category case that is filed with USCIS. So, all of the "processing" or "adjudicating" times for I-526s or EB-5 cases refer to the same thing. A USCIS adjudicating officer will review all the business side documents to make sure the business will promote "regional" economic growth by adding jobs as required. The officer will also review all the source of funds documents to track dollar for dollar how the investment funds were gathered and invested and that they were from a legal source. The total filing package could be 12 inches high (our latest filing) of documents, which would take a long time to review. Thus, currently, USCIS is taking 14.4 months as an average processing time for I-526 adjudication.
Presently you file with paper and about 15 months later you get first notice, which is sometimes a request for clarification.
The I-526 petition includes documentation to prove the compliance of the EB-5 project as well as the authentication of the investor's source and transfer of investment funds. There are sometimes thousands of pages (actual paper) submitted with an I-526 petition, including the project business plan, all the offering documents, and the investor's financial information. Not only does this take a long time to properly review, but with the popularity of the program, there is a backlog of I-526 petitions. All of this results in a "processing" time of 13 months.
When you submit an EB-5 petition to USCIS for a regional center, you submit between 2000 and 4000 pages of documents. The processing/adjudication is the time it takes USCIS to go through all of that. Also, they have thousands of applications in the pipeline and that is what takes the time also.
USCIS must review the documentation submitted with your petition. This means fully reviewing your source of funds financials, project offering documents, business plan, etc., all of which usually encompass around 1,000 pages. Due to such a large amount of documents, an ever-increasing number of applicants, and a relatively small number of reviewing officers, it takes over a year for them to get to your case and fully read through it.
DISCLAIMER: the information found on this website is intended to be general information; it is not legal or financial advice. Specific legal or financial advice can only be given by a licensed professional with full knowledge of all the facts and circumstances of your particular situation. You should seek consultation with legal, immigration, and financial experts prior to participating in the EB-5 program. Posting a question on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. All questions you post will be available to the public: do not include confidential information in your question.