FY2016 Q4 EB-5 Petition Statistics, Visa Backlog

I wish I had a merrier Christmas post for EB-5 world, but it’s my duty to report sobering statistics from USCIS for EB-5 petition processing as of Q4 FY2016 (ending September 30) and the National Visa Center for pending visa applications as of November 1, 2016.


  • I-526 Processing Volume: USCIS sped up considerably in the 4th quarter, processing more I-526 petitions than in prior quarters. 4th quarter decisions were also relatively positive – 91% approvals. However, the 4th quarter was not enough to improve the annual numbers. USCIS still processed fewer and denied more I-526 petitions overall in FY2016 than FY2015.
  • I-526 Receipts and Backlog: The last quarter of 2016 saw another unnatural surge of I-526 filings (thanks for nothing, Congress), further swelling the already huge pool of pending petitions.  If USCIS continues to process about 9,500 I-526s a year (average for 2015/2016), then the 20,805 petitions currently pending will take over two years to process.
  • I-829 Processing Volume: I-829 processing in FY2016 started well and then fell every quarter, from over 800 petitions processed in the 1st quarter to barely 200 petitions by the 4th quarter. The year was still better than FY2015 overall, with 1.7x more completions. USCIS did not report denying any I-829 petitions in the 4th quarter, and the denial rate for the year is a low 5% (but higher than last year’s 1% overall).
  • I-829 Receipts and Backlog: I-829 receipts grew a few percentage points over the course of the year, even as processing slowed dramatically. USCIS ended the year with 6,309 pending I-829 petitions, which would take three to five years to process at the current rate of adjudication.
  • Pending EB-5 Petitions and Applications: There are currently about 20,804 I-526 petitions pending at USCIS (each petition representing one investor who may subsequently apply for about three EB-5 visas) plus about 24,629 EB-5 visa applications already pending at the National Visa Center. This means that the queue of current and committed EB-5 visa applicants now is about 75,000 people long and therefore stretches about eight years into the future. (Assuming that DOS can issue only about 10,000 EB-5 visas a year, and that we don’t – though we might — see major changes from investors dropping out or Congress changing its mind about the total numbers or allocation of visas. Here is a link to my spreadsheet with calculations, for anyone who would like to rethink the numbers.) New China-born investors filing today will go to the back of the line of pending petitions and applications, while new applicants from other countries can look forward to skipping ahead of China-born investors once they reach the visa stage. Considering the line, a China-born investor filing I-526 today might receive a green card in 2024 and think about removing conditions and exiting the investment after 2026 (or even later, if future years bring a growing volume of non-China investors), while today’s investor from Brazil may get a green card in 2018 and be ready for exit after 2020. These are unreliable estimates because many possible factors could affect actual timing, but food for thought. I look forward to linking to other commentary and opinions on these numbers.

NOTE: See the comments for additional input and insights


About Suzanne (www.lucidtext.com)
Suzanne Lazicki is a business plan writer, EB-5 expert, and founder of Lucid Professional Writing. Contact me at suzanne@lucidtext.com (626) 660-4030.

16 Responses to FY2016 Q4 EB-5 Petition Statistics, Visa Backlog

  1. Daniel Shires says:

    Its not pleasant reading. I wonder why in particular the I829 stage seems to be grinding to halt? I will be going into that stage in July of this year and was hoping it would take around 12 months for a decision. Now that could be many years.

    • The trend charts suggest that IPO may be shifting resources between I-526 and I-829, with increases in I-526 processing volume at the expense of I-829 and vice versa. I also wonder whether the new I-829 interview initiative is slowing things down. Either of these factors would be temporary. I expect I-829 volumes to look better next year, but still that petition backlog is concerning.

  2. John Maxkrewl says:

    Hi Suzanne – Thank you for yet another timely update with relevant information. I have a quick question about 24K wait list at the NVC for the EB5 category.

    Is my understanding correct that this is the wait list for people who opted for Consular Processing after I526 approval and not the petitions due for AOS with USCIS right? It is interesting to note that 23K out of 24K are from China, which i assume are just petitions waiting for their visa number and not processing delays. Am I right in that assumption?

    Also, would you say that the increase in the number of I526 processed in this quarter is an indication of the increased staffing at IPO finally showing some results? I hope the new update to processing times (which was due Dec 15, 2016) will reflect a decrease in processing times (i do understand these processing times are extremely misleading but need something to have hopes during this long EB5 journey)

    • I’d actually forgotten to consider I-485 adjustment of status in my backlog calculation. But I believe that your understanding is correct. In its post on the National Visa Center report, IIUSA says that “applications for adjustment of status under INA 245 which are pending at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are not included in the tabulation of the immigrant waiting list data.” (But note that historically most EB-5 visas have been through consular process. For example in 2015, only 10% of all EB-5 visas and 7% of visas to China-born applicants were through adjustment of status.) The visa number wait certainly far exceeds any other DOS delay factor. Processing times have been updated as of today, and I’m sorry that the news is not good. I added a chart to my post.

  3. John Maxkrewl says:

    I don’t know if others noticed this as well, but I think USCIS has implemented one of its proposed changes to displaying times. It is now showing which petitions are being processed instead of the random number of months. So, currently (as of 31st October, 2016) July 12, 2015 I-526 petitions are being processed. I do understand that they are petitions from February 2015 that are still pending. So this July date is not that much more helpful than the 15.x months that USCIS usual shows on their website.

    • Yes, that’s on my growing list of new developments I haven’t had time to blog about. The change is just cosmetic — “processing petitions filed as of 7/12/2015” is the same as “processing petitions filed as of 15.6 months ago” (report date 10/31/2016 – 7/12/2015 = 15.6 months). But showing the date is probably easier for people to interpret correctly (since the months can appear to be an average processing time). You may be interested in this Excel file that I made, with logged months translated into dates and vice versa: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8zvnzstncl9ut0y/IPO%20Times%20Dates.xlsx?dl=0. The “movement” column could be used to try to project a trend for when IPO would start processing petitions filed as of a later date.

      • John Maxkrewl says:

        Thank you for all the efforts. I just noticed today that we have an early update to processing times instead of the 15th they updated yesterday and it is still around the 15 months average processing time for I-526. However, no change on the -829 times.

      • Marigotus says:

        I reviewed 192 I526 cases submitted between July and September of 2015 (a sample of 3% of the submitted cases in that period).

        Around 60% have been already adjudicated (of those adjudicated some are pending with RFEs – total of 25 with RFE, with 15 of those still pending resolution, the other 10 already approved).

        Even some of those cases were approved in a couple of months only. Go figure why.

        Two rejected (one due to wrong fee, the other with wrong filling) and one withdrawn. All this figures based on the USCIS website, hopefully it is updated.

        Having said that, cases presented at the beginning of 2015 or even at the end of 2014 are still waiting for adjudication (at least is seems since there is no movement in those cases in the USCIS website). Around 7% of cases submitted between Oct 2014 and Dec 2014 and 10% of those cases submitted between Jan 2015 and March 2015. On those 2 quarters I have at least a 25% sample of the submitted cases or 1.400+ cases.

      • Marigotus says:

        This was my view of adjudicated cases on Oct 3rd 2016,

        Sep 2014, 319 cases, 30% cover, 96% cases closed or in review
        Oct – Dec 2014, 747 cases, 25% cover, 90% cases closed or in review
        Jan – Mar 2015, 660 cases, 28% cover, 84 % cases closed or in review
        April – May 2015, 90 cases, 4% cover, 59% cases closed or in review

        this is my view as of last week:

        Sep 2014, 319 cases, 30% cover, 98% cases closed or in review
        Oct – Dec 2014, 747 cases, 25% cover, 93% cases closed or in review
        Jan – Mar 2015, 660 cases, 28% cover, 90 % cases closed or in review
        April – Jun 2015, 474 cases,19% cover, 79% cases closed or in review
        Jul – Sep 2015, 192 cases,3% cover, 58% cases closed or in review

        So I would think that USCIS has already started reviewing cases submitted between October 2015 till Dec 2015. Leaving aside those exceptional cases were they approve in a matter of a couple of months or even weeks.

  4. Rahul Patel says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog. They are very relevant and insightful. Would you have any suggestions, either on this forum or some other, where investors who have already filed I-526 petitions can have a more interactive discussions to talk about the status of their filed petitions. I feel like there are many such forums for H1B, LCA etc petitions and it helps the people who are waiting to receive the decisions and get some comfort by knowing that there are other people in similar situations. It also helps to know if anyone received the RFEs and the nature of request. The processing times published by USCIS are not as helpful and such sharing of information among investors would help. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks again for all your help !

    • I have started to notice people using the comments section as an unofficial discussion forum, and I’ll look into setting up a formal message board. If I figure out a good way to do this, I may ask for your input on the set-up — particularly in how to manage membership and moderate discussions so that it’s as useful as possible.

      • John Maxkrewl says:

        Hi Rahul and Suzanne – This is brilliant thought and thanks for bringing this up. I had this idea for quiet some time. I am happy to help if and when this section comes to fruition.

        As a side note, I noticed that at least 15 – 20 I-526 petitions filed on September 29, 2015 are approved now. The approval dates range from October, 2016 to January, 2017. It is a good sign to learn that IPO started processing the petitions from the sudden surge period(Q415 and Q116.)

      • Khurram says:

        Very useful information/deduction by Maxkrewl and Marigotus. I am curious, how do you guys get this level of data from USCIS website?

    • Rahul — I sent you an email on 1/18. Let me know if you didn’t receive it.

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