FY2019 Q4 Petition Processing Statistics

USCIS has published processing data on the Immigration & Citizenship Data page for July through September 2019 (FY2019 Q4).

I eagerly awaited this update, with three questions in mind. Would IPO start to recover processing volume in Q4, considering that previous reductions were credited to relatively minor and temporary factors (the RC authorization lapse in Q2 and I-526 training in Q3)? Would denial rates remain high? How large was the I-526 filing surge ahead of the regulations?

Now we know that IPO performance did not recover — yet —  in Q4. I-526 and I-829 denial numbers have not increased significantly. The I-526 denial percentage rose in Q3 and remained elevated in Q4 because approval numbers were so much lower than before.  People who filed I-526 by the end of September apparently got in before any significant pre-regs I-526 surge.

I-924 was a minor part of IPO’s FY19 workload, with few receipts and few pending forms. Denial numbers are remarkably high, but I suspect that many are actually withdrawals due to delayed processing. I-924 requests for exemplar approval lose value to the applicant if not adjudicated quickly.

I have a few questions for IPO Chief Sarah Kendall.

  1. IPO adjudicated 2.8x more forms in FY2018 than FY2019. Please explain.
  2. In one year under your leadership, IPO reversed five years of processing improvements, regressing to 2013 performance levels. Do you consider this reduced processing volume a problem that you plan to fix, or an expected outcome in your overall strategy?
  3. IPO had almost twice as many staff in FY19 as it had in FY15 (214 vs 110), yet adjudicated 41% fewer forms in FY19 than FY15. Productivity per staff member was 69% lower in FY19 than it was in FY15. Do you consider this productivity loss a problem that you plan to fix, or an expected outcome in your overall strategy?
  4. Looking at service-wide processing data between FY18 and FY19, EB-5 forms are the only EB forms that fell behind – other EB forms show increased approval numbers year-on-year. In fact, Form I-526 and I-924 rank #3 and #1 for worst performance in the entire service (with, respectively, 74% and 88% fewer approvals in FY19 and FY18). Only Form I-821 for Temporary Protected Status can compete, with approvals falling by 87%. Should we take a political message from these facts? Or does DHS see a problem and plan improvements in 2020?
  5. Do you recognize the connection between efficiency and integrity? Do you see the problem in denials that come too late to stem bad deals, and approvals that come too late to save good deals? Do you have a plan to strengthen program integrity by improving efficiency?
  6. If IPO continued FY19 processing volume into the future, then the current I-526 backlog would take three years to process, and the current I-829 backlog would take six years to process. How does IPO plan to improve going forward, to avoid such long times becoming the reality?
  7. What is your goal for processing volume in FY2020? How do you plan to reach that goal?

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 FY2019 Q4 Petition Processing Statistics

  1. kishore says:

    looks like they moved everyone from IPO to some other part of USCIS. This is some abysmal processing report

  2. James says:

    Actually, the right action of USCIS is: stop accepting application before serious long backlog solved. Just as Canada and other countries operation, accepting applications based on the quota each year.

    Current operation is ridiculous. In one side, hundreds thousands of people have paid and waiting in a super, super, super…… long line(, estimated waiting 30+ years), and hundred thousands of people are prolonging the long line year after year, on the other side, poor quota given for decades, without any backlog solution.

    Maybe interest parties would say, they should obey the rules and continue this absurd operation. While where is moral? Where is fair? Where is God? Only for Money can they condemn USCIS?

    If USCIS’s delay is for moral consideration, we applaud their action!

    • In my opinion, the right action is for USCIS to be prompt and transparent in reporting usage data. That way, users can see the backlog and make their own informed decisions about whether or not to use EB-5, in light of wait times.
      Also, in case it’s any comfort to you, my analysis does not support a 30-year wait time estimate for China. Such a high estimate could only be possible based on two assumptions: (1) that nearly everyone who filed I-526 will finally apply for a visa together with 1-2 family members, and (2) that there will be, going forward, unprecedented high EB-5 demand from a wide range of low-volume countries. I accept the first assumption, unlike Charles Oppenheim (though it’s questionable), but the second assumption is not plausible, in my opinion and observation. The rest-of-the-world demand that potentially constrains China visa availability going forward has already been shrinking and promises to become smaller and smaller with the investment amount increase, processing time problems, and country caps that limi other high-volume countries at the visa stage. If you’d like to email me a priority date year, I’ll send you the model I use to estimate China wait times based on available data. There’s plenty to worry about in EB-5, but you shouldn’t have to bear a despair that goes beyond the facts.

      • James says:

        Dear Suzaane, thanks for your reply. Your words is right but,
        30 years is an old data based on 2018 quota to China, it is really too pessimistic. No matter who calculate it, there are about 100000 Chinese, and the average number of a family is about 2.8, the data was given by USCIS, not groundless. Even if all quotas were given to Chinese, it needs ten years; half quotas given, 20 years; 3/4 quotas given, 13.5 years. Such long backlog means folded risk and many children over age.
        Charlie’s calculation wandered around some partial & irrelevant data, ignoring basic overall data, without seriousness. Maybe he is only trying to comfort Chinese ( also Indian, Vietnamese) investors, or help RCs get more money from foreign investors!
        In fact, as a sort of investment attribute, EB5 investors should pay more attention to the investment quality and risk, the fair treatment between shareholders, and the equivalence of rights and obligations, which is the most fundamental premise of modern economy: fair play & avoid malice.
        Unfortunately, we only talk about backlog now! Why? Because time is the ruler of risk. Some economists who research business cycle have ever told that “Only about 50% of enterprises will not collapse in ten years, and only 20% of enterprises will not collapse in twenty years”.
        The investment period designed by EB5 law is only about 5 years, and the risk is controllable. However, when it reaches 10 years (just as India and Vietnam, including 829) and 15-30 years (as China), the risk is completely out of control.
        This disadvantage (or risk) was revealed only after some critical data went public by authority. The embarrassment can only be left to God now.
        If we are still discussing the EB5 law (, which was designed only a 5 years cycle, ) and the rights and obligations set by the original PPM ( ,formed based on investors in good faith for RCs’ operation convenience ), it means nothing. If someone kidnaps investors maliciously, using the good faith of all parties involved in the preceding paragraph, they are quite viperous and shameful! The previous fair play has been changed into unfair play now!
        If there were any factors to shorten backlog, they should be: 1) someone would have to quit from the line for over age of their children (, while USCIS and RCs do not intend to leave a refund exit for these people, how can they do?). 2) some programs ( or RCs) could not run such long time and those investors loss all at last and have to quit.
        In this cruel game, everyone could be victim.
        Based on above understanding, we agree: if USCIS’s delay is for moral consideration, we applaud their action!

  3. Thenga Mandai says:

    I agree with James. This is absurd to say the least! They not only require us to invest an exorbitant amount but now make us wait years with uncertainty on when and if we even get an initial adjudication/approval. USCIS seriously needs to get their act together.

    • Cecilia says:

      The only good news here is that there doesn’t seem to be a surge in filing prior to September and I filled September 14. Let’s hope I don’t regret it by staying in line indefinitely. Thanks again for your post Susanne!

  4. Down but not out says:

    Thank you for asking the tough questions. Many of us have and ask these questions, but I think they reach a wider (and perhaps more important) audience when you ask them. And I think it helps that you keep the questions specific, logical and data driven.

    Also, I love the tone of righteous indignation of this article [ or maybe I was just reading it in that tone 🙂 ]. Either way, thanks again.

    • Down but not out says:

      P.S.

      Going back to your article titled “EB-5 form filing fees”:

      USCIS expects I-526 processing to take about 8.65 hours per application.
      So one person can be expected to process a little over 4 forms per week and 16 per month.

      In this quarter, they processed 182 per month.
      That would imply that they only have about 12 people processing i-526s!

      • I heard unofficially that there were about 50 officers on the I-526 team as of Summer 2018, and less than half that number as of Summer 2019 thanks to reassignments and some resignations. I wish the public could see the “Staffing Allocation Model” referenced by DHS in the fee rule. (“The Staffing Allocation Model is a Microsoft Excel-based workforce planning tool that estimates the staffing requirements necessary to adjudicate workload receipt (for example, applications and petitions) forecasts at target processing times.”) And also to know how, in fact, IPO has allocated staff. Surely a fee-based program deserves some transparency about resource allocation. The math for I-924 would suggest only two people assigned to those adjudications. Where is everyone?
        Besides staffing issues, I’m inclined to credit delays to the new norm of 15+ page RFEs that request a huge volume of evidence not foreseen in the form instructions. These take months to respond to and review, lengthening the process.
        I aim to channel data-rich and adjective-free indignation on this blog, knowing that some people with power do read it. And because my clients need someone to speak about issues that are resulting in harm to U.S. businesses, not to mention potential immigrants.

  5. Ardoct says:

    Suzane, you mentioned that ” ..FY19 processing volume into the future, then the current I-526 backlog would take three years to process”

    The current processing rate is less than the aggregated rate for FY19 because the slowdown started around Feb 2019. The current processing rate as that of last 2 quarters appears to be only around 2000 to 2500 per year. At this rate it will take at least 6 years to process I-526 backlog.

  6. Sam says:

    The 8.65 hours completion rate (I-526) is for review of both investment project and petitioner’s source of funds (SOF) together? I mean for a brand new project? Because, once the project review is approved then for all the remaining investors in that project, the only thing pending is source of funds review. On average there are tens of investors in a project. So, even for an approved project, the SOF of remaining each investor is also taking 8.65 hours? I’m I missing something here?

    • According to the fee rule, “Adjudication hours are divided by the number of completions for the same
      time period to determine an average completion rate.” So that 8.65 hours represents an average of total adjudication hours divided by total completions, not necessarily the exact time for each adjudication.

      I have heard informally (and observed in recent RFEs) that adjudicators are reviewing all parts of each petition individually, not just deferring to project document decisions made for the same documents in another petition.

  7. David says:

    Is there any possibility that USCIS will be able to return to the 2018 pace of adjudications or is the slow pace during 2019 expected to continue into 2020? I would think that with the higher investment amount and the growing backlog to get a visa, the program is going to decline in popularity impacting the entire EB5 industry. Is this slower processing something mandated by the current administration and will it only change if the current management or policies are replaced?

  8. David says:

    Why is anyone surprised? Trump fears immigrants and wants to slow down immigration through every beaurocratic lever he can pull. A new president is the only viable solution.

    It’s useless to complain about slow bureaucracy to the people like Trump who *want* it slower.

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