Before most people apply for a visa program, they want to know how long it will take until they are approved and can enter the United States. While immigration lawyers wish they could provide their clients with an exact timeframe, the reality is that the processing and approval process is not always consistent. There are many factors that come into play: the program to which you are applying, the steps involved to satisfy the requirements of that particular program, and even the amount of necessary paperwork included can all increase the amount of time you'll have to wait to receive word that you're approved.
Although we can provide our clients with an accurate EB 5 timeline, estimating the amount of time they'll wait for each stage to be completed can be extremely difficult. If you plan on submitting an EB 5 visa petition, you'll want to have a clear understanding of the steps that are involved in this process and how long you can expect to wait for approval. Keep in mind that these are merely estimations; your particular case may take longer to process or could potentially be processed more quickly, depending on the circumstances. In today's post, we'll break down what goes into the EB 5 application process and the average EB 5 processing time that you could experience.
Stages of EB 5 Visa Applications That Impact Processing Time
There are several steps to applying for an EB 5 visa, all of which take a considerable amount of time to fulfill. This process involves:
Selecting a Direct Investment or Regional Center Project -- one to three months
Preparing the EB 5 Application With Your Immigration Attorney -- one month
Review of the I-526 Form (Regional Center normal track or Direct Investment) -- 18-24 months (or more)
Premium Processing of I-526 (Regional Center) -- 3 months Guaranteed Decision
Consulate Interview or Adjustment of Status -- 8-12 months
After completing these steps and subject to approval, you will be given your conditional green card. While the process is not over at that point, there are other steps to take to obtain a permanent green card (10 year Green Card). The investor has to wait 21-24 months and then files form I-829 to remove conditions on the green card. The condition is the creation of the 10 jobs.
The quickest amount of time to get a conditional green card could take 12 months (one year). On the more conservative side, your EB 5 processing time to get a conditional green card could span 36 months (three years). That said, your experience could differ. It's important to pay attention to current trends that others have experienced, which are explained in the next section.
What is the Average EB 5 Processing Time?
According to data released by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, the agency responsible for processing and approving visa applications), your EB 5 visa processing time could be even longer than expected. Wait times are determined based on the amount of pending cases; at the end of Q1 2018, the number of pending applications for this visa program was 24,627. During that same time period, USCIS processed 3,044 petitions. Assuming that USCIS processes visa applications at a steady rate, a petition filed in June 2018 would have taken 24 months to be approved. The USCIS website actually estimates EB 5 processing times for applications. In June 2018, their site projects the processing time would have been just over 23 months.
Back in October 2017, those processing times were even longer. At that time, average processing times for these visa petitions ranged from 27 to 29 months. The USCIS reserves 10,000 visas for EB 5 investors each fiscal year. But as the number of EB 5 applications that have been submitted has risen, the amount of time it takes to be approved has increased. Of course, these estimations are averages; your specific case could take two years to be approved, but you might not have to wait that long.
Typically, this is why people need help with the visa application process. Your lawyer can advise you of any factors that could impact your processing time and ensure no mistakes are made that could hold up your application approval. To find out more about how we can guide you through this process, please contact our offices today.