[HOT] [Q] How long does CSC take to decide I-526 petitions?
Everyone is right and wrong on this one, simply because it's unpredictable how long CSC will take to decide I-526 cases, even when there has been a pre-approval on the project. Many EB-5 practitioners have a valid point in asking what is the point of the "pre-approval" if one cannot rely on the pre-approved project.
Based on our experience and other EB-5 practitioners, I-526s adjudication time frames range from 1 month to over 14 months: that's correct, 14 months after the submission. Of course, when a RFE is issued, it will delay the adjudication. However, even after RFE response has been submitted, CSC can take anywhere ranging from one month to 7 months from the time of RFE submissions.
Again, based on our experience and other EB-5 practitioners, we would say that it's not infrequent that I-526 adjudication time frame goes over 8 months. Many U.S. companies and EB-5 practitioners complain that a good project can get killed waiting for I-526s to get approved.
Some EB-5 practitioners also say that whenever there is some issue the examiner does not understand or like, for whatever the reason, your I-526 can sit there very, very long time, until CSC examiner talks to whoever they have to talk to and decide. [They also think luck plays some part in which CSC examiner looks at your case.]
Also, if CSC can deny and then certify the denied I-526s to AAO for its review and decision. And whenever the case goes up to AAO on certification after CSC denies it, it's pretty much a death knell, as we have not come across any reversal by AAO in the history of the EB-5 Program. And many EB-5 practitioners know that AAO is very, very good at finding a way to deny a case that's been certified. And it's very hard to take I-526 denials to the federal court level, simply because investors do not want to wait around any longer; they rather get their money back and do another EB-5 project.
In conclusion, whenever I hear an EB-5 project say their I-526s are being approved in less than 2 months, I say to myself "I had I-526s approved in less than a month, so no big deal", but I know that won't continue; and whenever I hear someone's I-526 has been pending for over 14 months, I believe it.
The only predictability is no predictability when it comes to EB-5 case adjudication; and that's sort of problematic.
P.S. In fairness to CSC and trying to be as accurate as we can, we would say around 50% of I-526s get adjudicated within 7 months.