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USCIS approves rural EB-5 I-526E petition in under 4.5 months

The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA) promised to “prioritize the processing and adjudication of petitions for rural areas.” And USCIS has delivered.

There was speculation as to what prioritized processing would mean. Many immigration lawyers predicted it would take a year or less. But now there is news about Eb-5 petitions being processed and approved in a matter of just a few months, with one case in just 131 days.

This particular petition was filed on April 27, 2023, and approved on September 5, 2023. 

Petitioners from Countries with Backlogs and Retrogression 

There are a few countries that suffer from a significant EB-5 backlog. For instance, recent estimates indicate that the wait time for an available EB-5 visa for Indians is nearly a decade.

The petitioners in this particular case can expect immediately available reserved visas as the Visa Bulletin is “current” for the three reserved categories (rural, high-unemployment area, and infrastructure). It’s worth noting that the other two reserved categories do not have priority processing. Many immigration lawyers expect the standard processing for an investor petition to take at least four years.

Why are these petitions being approved so quickly?

The immigration lawyer responsible for these petitions credit the RIA mandating priority processing for rural investments as the primary reason for the swift adjudication.

He points out that there were five sources of funds for that particular investment, including gifts from family members. Importantly, all of the sources of funds originated from U.S.-based income, which he believes made it easier for the adjudicator to approve. Additionally, he highlights that he included seven years of tax returns for all the gifts, which aligns with the new RIA requirement.

USCIS finally delivers on a promise for faster processing

USCIS has lost a lot of goodwill with EB-5 investors and stakeholders over the past several years due to protracted processing times, despite continual assurances of more efficient processing. But we must credit the Immigration Service for finally delivering on the promise of faster processing, at least for rural investments.

Senators Grassley, one of the architects of the RIA, clearly aimed to promote rural EB-5 projects, as evidenced by the special benefit of priority processing and the largest allocation of reserved visas — 20% of all EB-5 visas, in contrast to 10% for high-unemployment projects and 2% for infrastructure investments. And the USCIS is following the mandate of Congress to prioritize rural investments.

Expectations for future rural processing: 5 to 10 months

Before these recent approvals, investors were being advised to expect that their I-526E processing would take multiple years, as petitions filed in 2019 were still pending. The promise of priority processing in the RIA gave him hope, but, like others in the industry, he was uncertain about what that would entail in practice — or whether USCIS would prioritize rural petitions at all.

“Now, with these approvals taking five to 10 months, we can establish updated expectations”.

Investors should be aware that there’s a specific processing order for any case, whether it’s rural, related to high unemployment areas, or falls under another category: First, USCIS must approve the I-956F for the project; next, it will review any associated I-526Es, supposedly following a first-in, first-out system.

Investors are advised to submit their I-526E as soon as possible to secure a spot in the queue. 

Immigration lawyers are reminded that the more rural I-526Es are approved, and the faster they are approved, the sooner there will be “visibility for demand” for reserved visa numbers. This is likely to result in a Final Action Date being issued in a future Visa Bulletin.

USCIS approves rural EB-5 I-526E petition in under 4.5 months