In an effort to increase fairness in the EB-5 adjudication process, the USCIS has recently announced that starting March 31, 2020, it will begin processing I-526 Alien Investor Visa Petitions on a new “visa availability” basis instead of the current “first-in, first-out” basis. Under the current system, I-526 Petitions are processed based solely on the date the petition is filed with USCIS. This means that an investor’s place in line is determined by his or her “priority date” (the date the I-526 Petition was filed and received by USCIS). Under this “first-in, first-out” approach, due to annual EB-5 visa category quota limits, priority dates and wait times for Eb-5 visa issuance for Alien Investor visa applicants from countries with lower EB-5 demand has heretofore been affected by “retrogressed” visa availability in countries where EB-5 visa demand is much higher, such as China, Vietnam, and India.
However, under the new “visa availability” approach, the USCIS will now prioritize the processing of I-526 petitions based on whether there is a visa number available to the investor at the time of application. According to USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans. “This new approach increases fairness, allowing qualified EB-5 petitioners from traditionally underrepresented countries to have their petitions approved in a more timely fashion to receive consideration for a visa.”
Currently, the processing time for I-526 petitions is from 32.5-49.5 months. Investors who were born in China, Vietnam, and India who are subject to the visa retrogression with priority dates, who’s dates are not yet “current” on the USCIS Visa Bulletin can expect even longer wait times for I-526 petition approvals as a result of this change in policy.
For more information regarding the new “visa availability” adjudication processing, “priority dates”, “retrogression”, and the Visa Bulletin, visit uscis.gov