Tally of I-526 and I-829 approvals and denials by regional center (updated)

The USCIS Immigrant Investor Regional Centers page at www.uscis.gov/eb-5centers has been updated with links to documents that list regional center names and tally the  I-526 and I-829 approvals for each RC from January 1, 2014 to May 31, 2017.

UPDATE: The logs formerly posted by USCIS have been replaced by a brief message that “USCIS is reviewing inquiries regarding the previously posted Form I-526 and Form I-829 approval and denial statistics by regional center. To provide feedback on that data, please e-mail USCIS.ImmigrantInvestorProgram@uscis.dhs.gov.” Apparently, a lot of regional centers contacted them to complain of errors. IIUSA wrote a formal letter to IPO reporting discrepancies noted by many members.

[ORIGINAL POST]

These documents — if accurate — can be very valuable for potential investors, and for program integrity. Track record of approvals is a material factor in decision-making that, until now, has been unverifiable. Records can offer investors a way to double-check claims about past approvals for a regional center.

Potential investors should interpret the numbers judiciously. As USCIS notes in the documents: “petitions may be denied for various reasons, some of which may be based on investor specific issues and not related to any project issues.” A large number of denials may be related to investor problems or to sudden USCIS policy changes (or to document errors in these posted reports), not to any problems with the regional center. A large number of approvals says something about the size, aggressiveness, and age of a regional center, but does not necessarily promise quality or reliability or anything about the character of future projects or success of future petitions. Also, keep in mind that the numbers are only for petitions adjudicated, not petitions filed. Considering processing times, I-526 adjudications in 2014 to 2017 (the time period reported) largely reflect investments made in 2013 to 2015. Most investments made and petitions filed through RCs since late 2015 would not show up on this log of approvals and denials. And the log does not show any of the EB-5 petition approvals or denials prior to January 1, 2014.

Regional centers should double-check their records in these newly published logs, and follow the instructions in the docs to alert USCIS of errors. Whoever created this database of approvals and denials made a number of entry errors on RC names (resulting in some double or even triple listings from name variants), so the probability of numerical errors is also high. Especially if the published list shows denials that your RC doesn’t in fact have, hasten to report that and request correction!

The petition tally by regional center provides interesting data on regional center activity. We’ve known that a handful of regional centers have dominated the EB-5 field, and now that phenomenon can be quantified. Assuming that the numbers reported by USCIS are reliable, we can draw conclusions about the distribution of investors by regional center.

No wonder the interests of one metro area and a handful of regional center operators dominate EB-5 politics, when those interests claim such a large piece of the EB-5 pie. The USCIS database indicates that three regional center operators (US Immigration Fund, CMB, and Related) account for nearly a quarter of all I-526 petitions approved since 2014. New York City RC alone accounts for a fifth of all I-829 approvals during that time.  Over half of the approved I-526s petitions since 2014 went through just 21 regional centers, while nearly half of investors with I-829 approvals in that time went through just four regional centers. Meanwhile, over half the regional centers currently on the USCIS list of approved RCs did not have any approved investor petitions from 2014 to the present. (Though these RCs haven’t necessarily been inactive. Long processing times mean that approvals and denials through 2017 only reflect petitions filed/investments made through 2014/2015 — or earlier for I-829. An RC that doesn’t appear with many approvals or denials yet may have many petitions currently pending.)

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.

18 Responses to Tally of I-526 and I-829 approvals and denials by regional center (updated)

  1. Raed says:

    Why NOw !?

    • I guess this is part of the integrity & transparency initiative that also recently brought us copies of regional center termination notices and copies of redacted Form I-924A filings for RCs.

      • Suzanne, CanAm’s angry response to the USCIS stat errors is probably not the last from the industry. Our American Venture Solutions Regional Center is much smaller (72 investors to date) but we too shared that response when we saw two cases erroneously listed as “denials” by USCIS. Fixing two mistakes is easy, but I can’t imagine what the really large Regional Centers will need to do in response to mistaken approval/denial statistics.

        In all fairness to USCIS, this unfortunate situation is part of the same story: the EB-5 folks have mountains to move and, no matter what they are promised, the resources are never there. The fact that EB-5 is the single most economically beneficial part of the U.S. immigration system, and despite the billions invested for new job creation in the U.S., the EB-5 teams are woefully understaffed and underfunded.

        I only wish the really huge EB-5 centers would spend less on lobbyists arguing that Manhattan high rises with sub-average unemployment rates “merit” TEA status…and MORE on lobbying Congress to give the USCIS EB-5 unit the money they need to get their job done on a timely basis…(-;

      • Thank you for this thoughtful response! I agree, and wish that RCs like yours had a louder voice in lobbying. You could advocate for an annual RC fee that would be proportional to usage. The big RC lobbyists have just bargained down the fees in proposed legislation — plus made sure that RCs with 100 or more or a 1000 or more investors would pay the same fee as those with 10 or more investors.

        On the denial number issue, it occurs to me that the quarterly report on processing stats footnotes the denial column as including denied + revoked + withdrawn petitions. Could the numbers on the RC list report be correct for your RC be correct if it includes withdrawals?

      • Paul says:

        First, USCIS appears to have taken the stats down. So they may be out there in saved PDF’s, but are no longer front and center on the website. I guess we will see what happens in the future.

        FWIW on the other issue below, I think it’s just inaccurate record-keeping, not a matter of backing withdrawals into denials (at least that doesn’t work if you do it to our two RC’s posted statistics). I’m sure everyone at IPO is doing their best, but to me, this seems like potentially partially a technology issue. Basically, a lot of the software they use for case tracking and record-keeping is, from what I can see and have been told, woefully out of date, clunky and difficult to use. So my guess is that these lists were just imported data out of some tracking software program that’s not that great to begin with.

        One other major issue (related to the above) that I noticed was there’s no space showing info on denials that were later reversed. We have had this happen to investors associated with our RC projects at both stages. One example from each. IPO misplaced an RFE response on a 526 and denied a case due to abandonment. However, we filed a motion, reopened, provided the shipping information showing it was received/signed for and it was then approved. Similarly, an 829 client got denied due to a missed biometrics appointment and it was called abandonment. We basically had to beg, but they had a heart, realized the family didn’t totally understand this expectation, and let them do the appointment then approved. But both of these are showing up in BOTH columns (so far as I can tell) when I look at our stats and really these denials should be wiped away. I’m sure we are not the only ones seeing stuff like this.

        Anyway, I totally support making more information rather than less public for investors and everyone and generally applaud the idea here, but the actual stats seem like they were off by a meaningful amount in a lot of places.

  2. Ron says:

    Are the listings for the RC’s comprehensive? I received an I-829 approval via a RC not included on the I-829 list.

    • My reading of the docs indicates that they’re intended to be comprehensive for approvals from 2014 to the present. If your I-829 approval came in that time associated with an unlisted RC, that’s another evidence of database error.

      • Ron says:

        The formal notice of removal of conditions was 4/28/2017 … 10 year green card issued 5/2/2017 … but RC not on the list

  3. Reddy says:

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you for this blog. It has been very helpful!

    I received a mail from my regional center that said that the first batch of I-526 petitions associated with the project have been approved. I was one of the last investors in the project and my petition was on 1st Dec,2016. Do you think I will receive my approval faster than usual in light of the above information ?

  4. Raed says:

    I called my RC and he confirms that he only got two denial in his history for 1 526
    On the list it shows he got 27!!
    If this was available before the. We could easily decide on the. Best RC with more approvals ..
    Any way this makes me very concerned about the integrity of the RC I chosen and makes. E very worried

    • I think you shouldn’t worry about the integrity of your RC only based on this list. My history with USCIS statistics reports makes me very ready to believe mistakes on their side. If you have no other reason to doubt your RC, doubt USCIS recordkeeping/reporting first. Your RC should follow up with USCIS about correcting the report, if in fact they have 2 denials and not 27 (the first page of the report gives instructions for reporting mistakes). The RC may be willing to share these follow-up communications to/from USCIS with investors who are concerned about the discrepancy.
      In my opinion, some of the RCs with many approvals are very good RCs, and some are bad RCs that happen to have had a few large projects whose problems are not yet apparent. I’m glad that the approval list is now available to help with investor decisions, but future investors definitely shouldn’t be thinking “more approvals” always equals “best RC.”

  5. I call B.S. on these stats. USCIS is going to have egg on their faces after this one. My take: http://bit.ly/2syRUSY

    • I appreciate your commentary and have linked to it in my post. The attempt at transparency may at least have the benefit of disclosing problems in USCIS’s record-keeping system. If USCIS has not even been correctly matching petitions with regional centers, that explains a lot and is a problem we’re glad to discover so that we can push for it to be fixed.

      • Thanks. All this aside, I admire how you approach reporting on EB-5 issues with not just an unparalleled in-depth analysis, but a journalist-inspired approach to integrity.

  6. Keri says:

    Dear Suzanne,

    It appears the links have been disabled. Are these documents still available? If so, where can I access them or do you have a copy? Thank you.

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