Processing times at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIC) are constantly in flux. Average wait times are posted around the 15th of every month to reflect processing times as of the previous month.
Cases are processed typically in the order in which they are received. Even though processing timeframes have been condensed to 13.8 months, they are — in practice — taking much longer. Petitions at Regional Centers are taking upwards of 16 to 18 months, while direct investment petitions are taking even longer.
The prolonged process is causing problems for EB-5 investors as well as stalling job-creating projects. What was supposed to be a 10-month process for investors is now taking months longer and requiring them to make drastic changes.
Why are these delays occurring? A portion of that answer lies in the fact that there has been a deluge of petitions being filed within the last 12 to 24 months, which is visible via the USCIS’s website.
According to the USCIS’s chart regarding the number of 1-526 immigrant petitions:
- 1,258 were filed in 2008 (fiscal year).
- That number jumped to 3,805 in 2011.
- By comparison, 3,240 petitions were received in the fourth quarter (July through September) alone in 2014.
- In fact, a total of 10,928 petitions were received in 2014 alone. In 2013, 6,346 were received, preceded by 6,041 in 2012.
- As for pending petitions, there were a total of 12,453 last year — a stark contrast to the 853 in 2008.
What can investors and applicants do to inquire about their application beyond its processing time status? A 1-800 number yields little information, and an email response from the USCIS is usually generic and sweeping while taking up to 72 hours to arrive. With only these two checkup measures, the USCIS’s proverbial feet aren’t being kept to the fire.
Furthermore, delays with I-526 petition approvals means that the investor will likely see a delay in the US Consular interview process, conducted by the National Visa Center. What was once a three- to six-month process is now taking in excess of six months, according to a December 2014 report released by the Department of State. The report stated that 52 percent of petitions are taking longer than six months to process. What is the reason? The NVC cites a backlog in received petitions. The NVC has said they receive up to 25,000 petitions per week at underequipped offices.
A full-service immigration practice, David Hirson & Partners, LLP has 35 years of experience dealing with EB-5 investment and other immigration matters. If you have an immigration law matter, please call us at or email us at [email protected].
Additionally, Hirson Immigration attorney and EB-5 law expert Nima Korpivaara will be a guest speaker at the following events. Korpivaara is a member of the American Bar Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Orange County Bar Association and Beverly Hills Bar Association. He has advised developers, project principles and regional centers on EB-5 compliance and rules.