Understanding USCIS Processing Time Reports

EB-5 investors and consultants may want to participate in a teleconference hosted by USCIS this Wednesday to discuss how to interpret USCIS case processing time reports.

USCIS Invitation: Online Processing Times, 02/15/2017
Dear Stakeholder,
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites you to participate in a national teleconference on Wednesday, February 15, from 1 to 2 p.m. (Eastern) regarding case processing times posted to the USCIS website.
USCIS seeks to improve accuracy and transparency, and minimize the potential for confusion about processing times. During this engagement, subject matter experts will ask for feedback from participants and answer questions.
To register for this session: Visit our registration page to confirm your participation

UPDATE: USCIS emailed a list of feedback questions for the teleconference. The conference itself was not very interesting and so I’m not uploading my recording. But USCIS has emailed a follow-up engagement opportunity: “As mentioned during yesterday’s engagement, we will use the USCIS Idea Community as a method for you to submit additional feedback regarding online processing times. Participating in the USCIS Idea Community is easy. All you need is an active email address and you can create a profile and submit ideas. This campaign will be open until Friday, Feb. 24.”

This invitation follows a stakeholder email from USCIS in January that explained,

Starting on Jan. 4, 2017, we will post processing times using a specific date format rather than weeks or months. This is the first step in providing processing times that are timelier and easier to understand.
We post case processing times on our website as a guide for when to inquire (service request) about a pending case. For the last several years, we have posted case processing times using two different formats: For cases that were within our production goals, we listed processing times in weeks or months; For cases that were outside of our production goals, we listed processing times with a specific date.
Always refer to your I-797C, Notice of Action, and look for “receipt date” to determine when we accepted your case. If the receipt date on the USCIS Processing Times web page is after the date we have listed on your notice, you should expect to hear from us within 30 days. If after those 30 days, you have not heard from us, you may make an inquiry on your case.

Every month, the USCIS Processing Time Information page updates a chart titled “Average Processing Times for Immigrant Investor Program Office” that looks like this.

chart

The “Processing Cases as of Date” column is ambiguous, and we’ll have to ask about it on the call. Does it mean that as of November 30, 2016 IPO is just starting to process I-526 cases filed on August 7, 2015 (and if so, about how long can we expect the adjudication to take? 30 days?), or does it mean that IPO is taking final action on cases filed as of that date? How much of IPO’s active workload on November 30, 2016 should we assume is composed of cases filed on August 7, 2015, and how much of cases filed much earlier and much later? What’s the difference between reporting “cases as of August 7, 2015” and “cases as of 16 months ago?” How should we interpret the average processing dates given what we know of IPO’s exceptions to a First In First Out policy (e.g. that petitions for a single project get grouped, and that Exemplar approvals can speed processing?) How can we know USCIS’s “production goals” for a given petition type?

As context, I’m copying charts based on my log of dates/months reported in monthly updates to the IPO processing times table since 2014. (You can access my spreadsheet here if you like).


The orange trend lines could allow forecasting when a petition filed on a certain date (primary Y axis) will be adjudicated (X axis). But even assuming that I’ve understood the IPO dates correctly, a linear forecast from past trends is risky because the future will be affected by new factors including IPO’s staff improvements (we hope) and variation from filing surges. Also, even if the IPO-reported processing time is in fact “average” as of a given date, that doesn’t mean it’s typical. For I-924 processing, I can compare the IPO processing times report with reality, since I-924 designation letters give actual filing and approval dates. Doing this comparison for I-924s processed in 2015 indicates that the IPO-reported average times were close to the actual average but not at all typical, since a majority of applications (each represented by a dot on the scatter chart) were adjudicated either much more quickly or much more slowly than average.


I don’t have access to data on actual processing times for I-526 and I-829 petitions, but it would be interesting to know whether the deviations are similarly large.

In the past, EB-5 investor readers have used the comments section of this blog to trade experience with processing dates, and I got a request to open up a discussion forum instead to facilitate this exchange. So I have set up http://eb5.freeforums.net/ as a platform, and you’re welcome to sign up and use this tool to discuss your experience with EB-5 petition processing. I will do some light moderating (mainly accepting membership requests), but mainly offer it as a more convenient discussion venue for anyone who’s interested.

About Suzanne (www.lucidtext.com)
Lucid Professional Writing provides writing and editing services for businesses and scholars, and specializes in assisting clients to prepare business plans for filing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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