FY2020 Q2 EB-5 Form Processing Data

USCIS has published the All Forms report for FY2020 Q2 (January to March 2020), including entries for EB-5 forms I-526, I-829, and I-924. I look forward to these quarterly reports on the USCIS Immigration and Citizenship Data page because they provide information about EB-5 demand trends (receipts), processing trends (number of approvals and denials), and backlog trends (number of pending petitions).

FY2020 Q2 Data        
Form Receipts Approvals Denials Pending
I-526 21 714 190 16,633
I-829 604 730 57 10,309
I-924 48 10 50 137

IPO Chief Sarah Kendall had indicated at the March 2020 EB-5 stakeholder engagement that “With a lot of the infrastructure development now behind us, IPO is better situated to improve productivity. In fact, preliminary data for February shows a step in the right direction.” Now we can see that indeed, completion rates improved significantly. IPO processed almost twice as many I-526 and I-829 in FY2020 Q2 as in FY2020 Q1. That’s a most welcome update. The productivity in FY2020 Q2 is still three times lower than it was in 2018 with the same staff, so still not a recovery. But “a step in the right direction,” certainly. If IPO can manage more such steps in Q3 and Q4, I will start praising IPO Chief Sarah Kendall instead of pointing out inexcusable mismanagement of resources.

There were just over a handful of I-526 and I-924 receipts in January to March 2020 (21 I-526, and about 48 I-924). That’s no surprise. I would not expect many I-526 filings immediately after a deadline that nearly doubled the minimum investment amount. And I would not expect many I-924 filings considering that USCIS has essentially stopped processing I-924, as indicated by both the volume report (only 10 approvals in three months) and the processing times report (which gives an “estimated time range” for I-924 processing of 53 to 99 months).

Low receipt numbers are part of a trend throughout USCIS, and  help explain why the agency is now complaining to Congress about budget trouble. It turns out, measures to discourage immigration can result in falling revenue from immigrant fees. USCIS faces a reckoning from having operated on the Ponzi principle: depending on incoming fee revenue from new petitioners to pay for adjudicating a large backlog of forms whose fees were already spent without performance. I am heartened to see that at least in 2020, IPO did not use plummeting fees as an excuse to reduce productivity. In 2019, the coincidence of EB-5 receipt and adjudication numbers had me wondering whether IPO had decided to process only as many forms as justified by incoming fee revenue. I’m happy to see FY2020 Q2 firmly contradict that suspicion.

Denial rates remain comparatively high for Form I-526, but lower than in 2019. And it’s unclear whether IPO is actually denying more I-526 than usual, or just approving fewer than usual. Form I-924 denial rates remain astronomical – but no surprise, considering that most Form I-924 just request pre-approval for proposed investment projects. When I-924 processing times extend to four to eight years, the typical proposed project will no longer even exist by the time USCIS gets around to reviewing the application. Significant room for improvement in this area.

The charts below put FY2020 Q2 data in context of previous reports. I also included charts of recent processing times reports for reference and comparison. My timing consultation service remains available to people who want the numbers explained and interpreted as applied to their specific circumstances. So far I can only offer this service for I-526, because I have quite a bit of I-526 data available. I hope that I-829 processing will become more transparent in the future.

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.

9 Responses to FY2020 Q2 EB-5 Form Processing Data

  1. VP says:

    Hi Susan, After you have received the all forms report from USCIS will you be making another post on the average processing times for I-526 approvals. Also is there any way to find a report that specifies the aging analysis of the I 526 approvals that are currently pending with USCIS.

    • If there were “a” average processing times for I-526, I would definitely write about it. But the I-526 process is a constantly moving queue which people have been entering and exiting at uneven rates, as you can see from the data report. This makes timing estimates case-specific, which is why I set up my timing estimate service to answer the question one by one. My estimate service is based in part on an analysis of aging I-526 that I’ve assembled with difficulty from five different sources. USCIS should regularly publish pending I-526 data by priority date, and many FOIA requests are pending with this request, but USCIS is very reluctant to provide such transparency.

  2. VP says:

    IMO to process 16633 applications of I 526 that are pending, based on data from USCIS of an average processing of 8.65 hours per I 526 application, you need only 143875 man hours to process all of them. On an average if you consider one USCIS staff to put in 1920 hours per year (assuming 4 weeks for holidays and vacation) and an efficiently rate of 80 %, can contribute 1536 man hours which translates to 93 people working on I 526 applications alone, USCIS will be able to clear the entire backlog.

    I am wondering why USCIS will not adopt this strategy to avoid mandamus filings and FOIA queries from applicants.

    What USCIS needs is an optimization algorithm that can work out what applications they need to process based on the revenue that each category of application generates by way of application fee Vs managing the aging of already pending applications that should have been processed a long time ago creating increased bottlenecks in efficiency because of mandamus filing etc, to improve their revenue and Cash flows.

    I am not in a position to appreciate the the priorities of USCIS but definitely the Eb5 industry needs clearing of this backlog to make applicants find it attractive to think of Eb-5 as a route for obtaining US Citizenship by greatly reducing the wait times. If such a clearing of application did in fact happen, I don’t know if the queuing of applications at the I 485 stage in two to three years’ time will mean that a large number of investors should be looking at getting their moneys back. In the post pandemic world with the hotel and travel industry being so badly affected and with no significant increase in new I 526 applications, will the projects be able to honor their repayments to the customer considering that they don’t have capital circulation by way of new investments is another question.

    One thing that is clear is the increasing need for a stronger Eb5 lobby in the post pandemic world to talk about the merits of keeping the EB5 visa program going.

    • DK says:

      If IPO follows ‘Visa availability approach’ as announced in March,2020, then I-526 adjudication case load will drop significantly for ROW ( China excluded) and there is a real chance to eliminate the backlog within a year. Since new EB5 applications are reduced to a trickle, IPO can do a catch-up with applications from retrogressed countries and at the same time provide improved processing capacity for initial adjudications for new potential subscribers. This is a wishful thinking at best.

  3. Charlie says:


    Do you think the dramatic slow down of new I-526 worldwide will have a tangible boost on PD movement?


    • Falling I-526 numbers will eventually result in falling demand at the visa stage, which will result in more visas available to the oldest priority dates in the backlog, which will result in more rapid forward movement for China priority dates.

      • Charlie says:

        Do you think it will happen before pending I-526s are exhausted?

        • Ashok Kumar says:

          The USCIS has slowed down 526 processing dramatically as Suzanne has posted. PD movement will move forward, but take note that, it won’t be beneficial for an existing investor, if 526 processing takes 36-60 months now. So instead of waiting for a PD to become current, now investor will be waiting for 526 approval. End of the day, the waiting time for an investor has not improved, whether he/she is waiting for 526 approval or PD becoming current.

  4. Krish Vr says:

    So they increased the pricing already from 500 to 900k and non regional center even double. If USCIS is not providing proper and faster approval time. Why is this EB5 still attractive. Now new investors have to pay more money and sit blindly without knowing when they will get their 526 approval itself. This is really frustrating. Also earlier one if the judge said it should take months notice year for USCIS. Why they don’t follow that. Does that mean they want everyone to file a law suit.

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