Fresh data from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) show average processing times for EB-5 regional center applications – Form I-924 – had reached an astonishing 834, or 27.3 months, by the end of October 2017, the longest wait time ever recorded.
Average processing times for Form I-829 – the petition an investor submits after having held a two-year conditional residence permit in order to obtain a permanent one (green card) – doesn’t fare much better, with applicants now waiting some 29 months for adjudication.
Meanwhile, I-526 petitions – the first application EB-5 investors must submit as proof that they are in the process of investing in an approved project and, as such, qualify for the conditional residence permit – now take upwards of 26 months to process, on average.
While these are the average waiting times, Chinese applicants must often wait much longer – estimated at more than a decade for an application submitted today – due to the intractable retrogression problem.
The USCIS generally processes forms in the order they receive them and, currently, the bureau is processing I-526’s, I-829’s, and I-924’s from September, October, and November 2015, respectively.
Much to the chagrin of developers, the long waiting times for regional center approval means EB-5 financing is increasingly difficult to come by. EB-5 Insights explains:
[…] many investors do not want to invest in a new commercial enterprise which has not been approved by USCIS through an exemplar Form I-924.
However, in order to be eligible to receive approval of an exemplar Form I-924, the application must include more details than a hypothetical or actual project, and the project itself must be “shovel ready.”
In order for a project to be “shovel ready,” the project typically has to be ready to proceed with substantial construction at the time of filing the exemplar Form I-924. One way to demonstrate this is to show that all financing (save for the EB-5 financing) is in place and all permits necessary for the project to move forward have been secured.
If it takes over 20 months for an exemplar Form I-924 to be approved, and the project was ready to be constructed at the time of filing, the project may be fully constructed by the time the exemplar Form I-924 is finally approved. This is a big issue for projects which require EB-5 financing to be completed.
If receipt of that EB-5 financing is contingent upon the approval of the exemplar Form I-924 (or approval of a Form I-526, which takes longer to process than an exemplar Form I-924), the project likely will not be able to move forward until such approval is received.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain.