FY2019 Q3 EB-5 Forms Processing Data

In her talking points for the EB-5 Modernization Stakeholder Call (September 9, 2019), Investor Program Office Chief Sarah Kendall made the following statement regarding processing times.

  1. IPO UPDATES AND PROCESSING TIMES

USCIS continues to process applications from regional centers and petitions from immigrant investors in a manner that strives to ensure timely adjudication while maintaining program integrity.

Over the past few years, IPO has been working diligently to reduce processing times by onboarding additional personnel, resulting in adjudicating more than 14,900 Immigrant Petitions by Alien Entrepreneur (Form I-526) in fiscal year 2018, which was an approximate 69% increase over the average completions for the previous five fiscal years.

During fiscal year 2019, the sunset of the Regional Center program during the last part of December and through most of January, cost IPO adjudicative time even after the program was reauthorized. IPO was forced to pivot to stand alone petitions and I-829 work and halted production on I-924s and I-526s associated with a Regional Center.

Additionally, IPO has taken significant steps in building more robust quality assurance and control programs to better ensure consistent adjudication practices, including conducting an extensive training session for all I-526 adjudicators and economists.

These reasons, along with temporary assignment of some staff to other agency priorities, have resulted in longer processing times, which you may have noticed with the May update to our online processing times.

These talking points do not suggest a crisis. The statement leads by emphasizing strong performance in 2018, and attributes the “longer processing times” that we “may have noticed” in 2019 to temporary factors: the few-week lapse in regional center authorization in December/January, a training session, and temporary reassignment of staff. There’s no suggestion of a major and persistent problem.

USCIS has now published FY2019 Q3 processing data for EB-5 forms on the Immigration and Citizenship Data page, and the numbers are concerning.

  • IPO is approving dramatically fewer I-526 than ever before:
    • Completion rates for I-526 have fallen 63%, comparing FY2019 with FY2018 year-to-date.
    • In FY2019 Q3, IPO processed fewer I-526 than ever before in its history – only 579 completions for the whole quarter, as compared with 3,000-4,400 completions per quarter last year.
    • In FY2019 Q3, a record number of I-526 decisions were denials — 42%. The average I-526 denial rate is 20% in FY2019 YTD, as compared with 9% in FY2018 YTD.
  • IPO is processing dramatically fewer forms in total than ever before:
    • Completion rates across EB-5 forms (I-526, I-829, I-924) have collectively fallen 59%, comparing FY2019 with FY2018 year-to-date. This demonstrates that IPO is not merely reallocating resources internally, but has become less productive across the board.
    • In FY2019 Q3, IPO processed more I-829 than in the previous quarter, but still a low volume – lower than average 2017/2018 performance for I-829.
    • Both IPO and the industry seem to have given up on I-924, with just a few handfuls of I-924 receipts and completions in the last two quarters. (And no wonder, when the current Processing Times report indicates that an I-924 is only considered “outside normal” processing after 90 months.)
  • Reduced performance combined with backlogs threaten long processing times.
    • FY2019 Q3 processed 579 Form I-526, and ended the quarter with 13,070 pending I-526. If IPO were to continue at the same processing volume, then the pending I-526 would take 13,070/579=23 quarters=5.6 years to process. If IPO had kept up (or can soon return to) last year’s volume of 3,000+ completions per quarter, then the same backlog would take just one year to process.
    • FY2019 Q3 processed 613 Form I-829, and ended the quarter with 9,295 pending I-829. If IPO were to continue at the same processing volume, then the pending I-829 would take 9,295/613=15 quarters=4.8 years to process.
  • The processing crisis at IPO is reflected in every quarter so far of FY2019, with each quarter worse than the last, and all together much worse than IPO’s performance from 2015 through 2018. I very much hope that the contributing factors are temporary, as Sarah Kendall suggested. I wish that she’d mentioned any expectation or intent to improve any time soon — at least to previous performance levels. Otherwise, one’s left to suspect an unspoken reason: that IPO has a new policy to maximize time spent per petition. But that would be a terrible move for program integrity. Long processing times benefit fraudsters, who can flourish in the expectation of years before USCIS gets around to reviewing investor petitions and catching the fraud. The worst harm and deterrent from long processing times falls on the best users — projects that genuinely need EB-5 investment and care about their investors. I hope that USCIS recognizes this important integrity issue, and soon improves — at least returning to the performance levels achieved in recent years.
  • Meanwhile I-526 receipts remain low, with the pre-regulations surge not in evidence yet as of June 2019.

For links to previous articles on processing data, see my EB-5 Timing Page.

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.

23 Responses to FY2019 Q3 EB-5 Forms Processing Data

  1. tpk129 says:

    Suzanne wrote…”In FY2019 Q3, a record number of I-526 decisions were denials — 42%. The average I-526 denial rate is 20% in FY2019 YTD, as compared with 9% in FY2018 YTD.”

    Care to offer a guess as to why this is happening? This seems out of the ordinary. Source of funds issues?

    • My guesses: (1) USCIS may be encouraging a culture of no, and (2) approvals may be taking longer than denials (with cases that will be approved still held up with fine-tooth scrutiny and RFEs, while deniable cases can just be denied and pushed out the door relatively quickly)

    • EB-5.org says:

      One of the reason I believe denial rate is much higher is that IPO has started adjudicating older petitions from 2016 including pending ones from sketchy RCs and poorly filed Direct EB5 cases. This trend should not continue in the future, once IPO FIFO’s past these I-526s.

  2. ketul says:

    It seems that program is dying slowly. For last 2 years, I 526 applications are received less than 7000. Also, recent changes in EB 5 rule will further reduce these new applications around 500 max per quarter. Moreover, last 2 quarters’ trend shows higher rejections in I 526 applications. In totality after few years, I am sure that EB 5 program can’t consume 7000 visas specifically allocated for this category. Hence, eventually direct impact on foreign invest in US, which was basic intend of this pilot project.

  3. SURESHCHANDRA AMRUTLAL PATEL says:

    USCIS RECORD SHOW THAT TOTAL PENDING APPLICATION OF I 526 IS 13070 UP TO LAST Q4 THIS APPLICTION INCLUD CHINA APPLICTION ALSO?
    SOME MONTHS AGO INDIA HAS 58OO I 526 APPLICTION AND TIME TAKEN FOR VISA IS 5800/700=8.28 YEAR IS IS NOW TRUE AFTER USCIS LAST DATA SHOW

    • The data in my post only shows number of petitions pending at USCIS as of June 2019. It does not show the total EB-5 backlog. The total backlog includes pending I-526, and also the family members of those pending petitioners, plus pending visa applications, pending I-485, and everyone who has I-526 approval but not yet able to file a visa application or I-485. The last data for the total backlog is as of April 1, 2019, when Oppenheim estimated 8.4-year wait for India. The backlog today would be the total backlog from April 1 minus visas issued since April 1, plus I-526 filed since April 1, plus family members of I-526 petitioners since April 1.

      • SURESH says:

        suzanne i want to know what is exact processor for i 526 in same regional center same date december2018 expatiated approval come on april2019 but my some has not come how they treat i526 petition no news and any update

  4. SURESH says:

    USCIS RECORD SHOW THAT TOTAL PENDING APPLICATION OF I 526 IS 13070 UP TO LAST Q3 OF FY2019 THIS APPLICTION INCLUD CHINA APPLICTION ALSO?
    SOME MONTHS AGO INDIA HAS 58OO I 526 APPLICTIONS AND TIME TAKEN FOR VISA IS 5800/700=8.28 YEAR IS IS NOW TRUE AFTER USCIS LAST DATA SHOW?

    • Please see my answer above to your comment. Petitions and applications are two different things, and the India backlog is not calculated from I-526 petitions alone. USCIS data for pending I-526 does include I-526 from all countries. It does not include family members of approved petitioners, or people with approved I-526 who have pending visa applications, pending I-485, or waiting for a chance to submit visa applications and I-485.

  5. BYUN SUNG CHUL says:

    I am a South Korean I-526 petitioner, my case receipt date is Sep. 14th 2018 . When my I-526 documents will be reviewed and be adjudicated ?

  6. Cecilia says:

    This is beyond upsetting. So now even those countries that didn’t have backlog will now. The standard 2 yrs for Brazilians will to get a green card will take what now: 4/5/6 years?

  7. kishore says:

    This is rather disturbing that processing times have increased when the number of applicants is collapsing.

  8. MANGA SINGH PAWAR says:

    My case receipt date is 7th July 2016 living in the UK but from India by birth. I have made a number of inquires with USCIS about my application and get the same standard reply they are sorry for the delay. There are 31 investors in my project with CMB all with a similar case receipt date as mine. So far only 19 investor have got approval. Very frustrating long wait so far.

    • Kumar says:

      You Can file a Litigation in Federal Court , Your Case is Considered as out of Normal Processing time . Usually USCIS comes to Settlement and take decision on your case , without coming to court

  9. Harry says:

    My suggestion, is to have a online tracker, where everyone can put there dates etc (For 526 829 ) and then we can track the movement . Living in Opaque world of I-526 is not helping anyone. I would request Suzanne to take a lead on this. Thanks!

    • This is a good idea, but I don’t know how to set up a good tracker. (I made a Google Form with results published in a Google sheet, but it’s not very convenient because hard to update. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1fdpZxUrs6-eHeYJJ2CVJlFGl4wy9nL3fnTHh3yMVjKI) If you can make (or find) a good tracker, let me know and I will publicize it.

      • Cecilia says:

        The estimated time for my I526 is 24 to 49 months. That does not include 829 time, right? If there’s a visa available how much longer ( estimate of course) for 829? TIA

        • The posted I-526 processing time is only for I-526, not later stages of the process. The total time to permanent residence is I-526 processing time (variable) + time to get consulate interview or I-485 approval (likely under a year unless a visa limit) + 2 years of conditional permanent residence (this is fixed) + I-829 processing time (variable). One hopes that IPO will solve its current problems and that your I-526 and I-829 will be adjudicated in less than the current unusually long processing time estimate for those forms.

      • Harry says:

        Thanks Suzanne..!! This tracker is good enough for us..!! However, would like to add few things..

        (1) County of Origin.India & Indian both entries are valid..We can allow to choose instead of input.

        (2) Some of them has Expedite approval which offset the calculation for regular. So we can have question for regular or expedite.

        (3) I am encouraging the other site( https://www.trackitt.com/usa-immigration-trackers/h1b) to add EB5 trackers they have other trackers, ways & means..

        Thanks!

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