FY2021 Q1 EB-5 Performance Data

The USCIS Citizenship & Immigration Data page has published performance reports for FY2021 Q1 (October to December 2020), with data for EB-5 form receipts and adjudications. Since the full reports are formatted to be almost unreadable, I clipped out content most significant to EB-5 from the All Forms report and I-485 report. These summaries are followed by notes and charts that put the FY2021 data in context of previous reports.

General Comment

Overall, the numbers for October 2020 to December 2020 show low receipts, low productivity, and a faulty record-keeping system. But this time period represented dark pandemic days, and lingering Trump administration leadership on immigration. So I do not consider the period characteristic, or necessarily indicative for future performance. I am not ready to predict the current/future trends until I hear from new USCIS leadership, and start to see performance data for this year.

Report Format

For the first time, the All Forms performance report adds columns for total processed petitions, and processing times. That’s nice.

As with the annual report, the quarterly-report processing times are significantly lower than the median times reported day-by day for the same period. (For example the USCIS Processing Times Page reported median times for I-829 of 35 months in October, 36.5 months in November, and and 33 months in December, per my log of contemporary reports. And now this quarterly report states that 50% of I-829 processed October to December 2020 took less than 31.5 months to process.)

I-526 Performance Data Notes

The I-526 data reported for FY2021 Q1 shows that USCIS struggles to count inventory, even after taking over three months to generate the report.

We don’t know how many I-526 were filed in Q1, because the report gives a letter “D” in place of I-526 receipts. The report code explains that “D” means “Data withheld to protect applicant’s privacy.” Another definition could be “Data withheld to disguise our counting errors.” In theory, last quarter’s period-end pending petitions plus this quarter’s receipts minus this quarter’s approvals and denials (which also includes withdrawals) should equal this quarter’s period-end pending petitions. If that equation gives a false result, then something’s wrong with USCIS data reporting. Doing this equation quarter by quarter (as I do in a table below), shows discrepancies every quarter. Using the equation to solve for receipts in FY2021, I see that “D” masks a negative number: -194 to be exact. EB-5 demand would plausibly have been low October to December, but can’t have been actually negative! So USCIS must have miscounted approvals/denials or pending in Q1, or possibly compensating for errors in previous quarters. This quarter’s I-526 report is not very helpful, except as additional ammunition for Mandamus lawyers demonstrating to judges that USCIS self-reporting is confusing at best and unreliable at worst.

I-829 Note

I-829 receipts were down significantly in FY2021 Q1, and calendar year 2020 overall. In theory, I-829 filings to remove conditions should be fairly steady, reflecting the steady pace of EB-5 visa issuance two years previously. When I-829 receipts fall, I worry that some disaster befell the cohort of EB-5 investors who entered the U.S. 21 months earlier. I want I-829 numbers to show success through to the EB-5 finish line. (Update: BOS InvestorVoice makes a good point in the comments: USCIS struggled in 2020 to issue I-829 receipt notices, with mutliple I-829 applicants reporting severe delays just to get the notice. That could explain low recorded receipt numbers even if I-829 submissions were in fact as high as ever.)

On the bright side, I-829 processing productivity only fell a little in Q1, and the approval rate remained high (94%).

Investor Program Office Productivity

Between Q3 and Q4 2020, IPO had exhibited an encouraging 16% increase in number of forms processed (I-526 plus I-829).  Q1 FY2021 regressed again, with 7% fewer forms processed than the previous quarter. Sarah Kendall left IPO after November 2020 according to her LinkedIn page, so FY2021 Q1 represents the end of her direct influence. I warmly hope that future FY2021 reports will show the positive effect of new leadership at IPO (though Kendall still looms as USCIS Regional Director). IPO has so much room for productivity improvement, considering that they used to regularly process three times more forms with fewer staff than they have today.

I-485 Note

I do not usually report I-485 data because USCIS does not itemize EB-5-based I-485. The report just gives aggregate numbers for all EB category visas. However, this post highlights employment-based I-485 performance data specifically for the California Service Center, which I understand is responsible for most (all?) EB-5 I-485 decisions, and which is apparently having a meltdown. In FY2021 Q1, the California Service Center approved a record-low only 38 Employment-Based I-485 per the report (having previously averaged 300-400 EB approvals per quarter), and ended with a record-high backlog of 5,027 Employment-Based I-485 pending. Ms. Mendoza Jaddou, please hurry up and get confirmed as USCIS Director, and then find out what’s going on at the California Service Center. No one wants to see the processing times that will result if 5,000+ Employment-based I-485 continue to get processed at a rate of fewer than 100 forms per quarter. If indeed EB-5 I-485 are all ultimately forwarded to the California Service Center for adjudication, how about reconsidering that decision in light of recent performance? Too many EB-5 visas have been lost already.

Plug

Collecting and processing EB-5 data has become increasingly difficult and time-consuming. If my analysis helps you, please consider a PayPal contribution to support my work. Thank you!

I am not currently promoting my I-526 timing estimate service, due to limited recent information. After I see 2021 data and hear from new leadership at IPO, I will be better able to judge the current trend and make educated estimates about 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.

14 Responses to FY2021 Q1 EB-5 Performance Data

  1. One potential reason for the low 829 receipt number is due to the Texas lockbox delay earlier this year.

    My I-829 application was delivered in November 2020 but only got receipt in Feb 2021. Maybe IPO uses “Notice Date”, rather than “Received Date” to count inventories. If my assumption is correct, we might see a significant increase of i-829 receipt in Q2 FY2021.

  2. Fred says:

    While it does seem unfortunate for the “cohort of EB-5 investors who entered the U.S. 21 months earlier,” does that mean there is an actual reduction in backlog by a few months considering the number of decisions (approvals + denials) held more or less steady?

  3. Kim says:

    I filed my I-485 earlier this year (it went to the CA service center) and reading that only 38 were adjudicated in 2021Q1 made my heart drop.

    Suzanne, are you surprised that there is not yet a single cosponsor in the Senate for S831? I can’t help wondering how in the world they (whoever “they” may be) are going to get the bill past the finish line in time. Especially considering a companion bill hasn’t been introduced in the House yet.

    Thank you for all your great work!

    • VJ says:

      my i 485 filed in September 2020 , it also went to CA service and no movement yet, is there any hope they can process on fair speed ?

      • I hope that publicizing the problem at the CA service center will help to push for improvement. As illustrated in the charts, the problem appeared very quickly in 2020. If only it can be solved as quickly!

        • VJ says:

          i just check USCIS says i 485 employment base processing time is between 12 to 70 month, can we aspect they reduce the processing time window ? and any hope about the slowest CA service center movement ?

    • I suggest that you join this advocacy group https://t.me/EB5Advocacy, and listen to the recording posted there of an excellent webinar hosted this weekend by Carolyn Lee. The situation is complicated and alarming, and you may be able to help.

  4. Devika says:

    Thanks, Susanne as always for putting out data.

    My I-485 was filed in December 2020 (CA center) and got my receipt in January 2021. Appalled at the inefficiency of processing I-485s. The 2+ year wait for the I-526 approval was ridiculous but as per the numbers for Q1 2021 (38 only), seeing any kind of movement for the I-485 seems bleak. Is it possible to know how far back (year) the backlog of 5k+ goes?

  5. Vini says:

    Maybe half I 526 pending from China .

  6. David says:

    Vietnamese applicants have less to worry about than other nationalities because the Ho Chi Minh City consulate is granting more EB5 visas than every other consulate in the world combined. Check the February and March 2021 immigrant visa logs from the State Department.

  7. emran says:

    Hello everyone,
    I’m Bangladeshi citizen, EB5 direct investor. I-526 PD October 4th 2019. when can I expect to hear a response from USCIS? Can you share your PD? and what is current I-526 pd?
    Thank you

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