We investigate the fluctuations of the time elapsed until the electric charge transferred through a conductor reaches a given threshold value. For this purpose, we measure the distribution of the first-passage times for the net number of electrons transferred between two metallic islands in the Coulomb blockade regime. Our experimental results are in excellent agreement with numerical calculations based on a recent theory describing the exact first-passage-time distributions for any nonequilibrium stationary Markov process. We also derive a simple analytical approximation for the first-passage-time distribution, which takes into account the non-Gaussian statistics of the electron transport, and show that it describes the experimental distributions with high accuracy. This universal approximation describes a wide class of stochastic processes, and can be used beyond the context of mesoscopic charge transport. In addition, we verify experimentally a fluctuation relation between the first-passage-time distributions for positive and negative thresholds.
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