I-526 Status Report: July 2021

At last report (in November 2020, the last time IPO deigned to have a stakeholder engagement of any kind), the Investor Program Office at USCIS had a staff of 232 people. What are these people doing, especially now during the regional center program lapse when USCIS decided that “we will not act on any pending petition or application of these form types that is dependent on the lapsed statutory authority.” Are IPO staff busy making progress with the direct EB-5 inventory and I-829, or are they doing something else in or out of the office?

Before I share some inside information on this question, consider the workload facing IPO’s staff of 232 people. Current IPO management is unknown (former Chief Sarah Kendall having left back in November, and a replacement not yet announced), but if you were management, how would you allocate IPO’s staffing and fee revenue resources? What level of processing productivity would you expect?

FormPending Inventory as of 3/31/2021Completion Rate (Average Touch Time per Form)Status during regional center program expiration
I-52613,044 (direct I-526 likely <10% of total)8.65 hoursOnly direct EB-5 I-526 are being processed
I-82910,3658.15 hoursAny forms can be processed
I-92415234.95 hoursNo forms can be processed
SourceQuarterly reportProposed Fee RuleWebsite Alert
Investor Program Office Workload as of 2021

The only official window into IPO productivity comes from quarterly reports with limited data published after months of delay on the USCIS Citizenship & Immigration data page. I chart these data reports to track trends in IPO resource allocation and productivity.

In my frustration at USCIS’s limited and delayed data reporting, I also welcome leakers:  confidential sources within USCIS who can share information that the public should know. I will now share some recent I-526 information from a source that I cannot name but believe to be solid.

I-526 Data Leak: July 2021

  • In the last week of June 2021, between the Behring lawsuit decision (June 22) and the regional center program expiration (June 30), USCIS received 405 I-526 filings.
  • From the 4th of July holiday until the end of July (July 6-30), IPO issued 16 I-526 approvals and 32 denials. At the same time, IPO issued 77 RFE and NOID on I-526 cases. The following is the priority date distribution (calendar year) of these actions: 2015 2%, 2016: 13%, 2017: 16%, 2018: 38%, 2019: 31%.  The priority date range was from September 2014 at oldest to July 2019 at youngest.
  • In July 2021, 16 people withdrew their I-526 petitions.

As I look at these numbers, here’s what strikes me as significant.

More I-526 were filed in the last week in June 2021 than in the entire previous year and half. That shows strong demand for EB-5 at the $500,000 minimum investment, a high level of industry preparation for the Behring court win, and optimism about regional center program prospects.

I-526 adjudication volume was extremely low after 4th of July: only 48 decisions and 77 notices in 21 working days – in other words, fewer than 6 total actions per day on average, and just over 2 decisions per day on average. We’d feared that one consequence of regional center program lapse on June 30 could be IPO decision to move resources away from I-526 adjudication, and that appears to be happening, at least so far. In January to March 2021 IPO adjudicated 882 I-526, and I thought that was extremely low. But that was an average 14 decisions per working day, in addition to RFEs. And now they’re down to barely over 2?

USCIS reported in the 2019 Fee Rule that adjudicative “touch time” for I-526 is less than 9 hours per form on average. If that report is accurate, how few people must have been assigned to I-526 in July 2021, to result in an average of only 2 decisions and 6 total actions per working day? Can it be that with 232 people on staff, funded at least half by I-526 fees, that IPO had fewer than 10 people assigned to I-526 cases in the month of July? I have not been informed about IPO staffing allocation decisions, but feel that the public has a right to know whether a fee-funded agency is using fees to provide the paid-for service.

I have not been told yet how the I-526 inventory divides between direct and regional center cases, but by historical averages it’s possible that only about 1,000 direct I-526 remain to be adjudicated. IPO adjudicated that many cases per month in 2016-2018, and at least adjudicated that many per quarter until recently. But if July 2021’s productivity were the new normal, with only about 2-3 decisions per working day, then even 1,000 I-526 would take forever to process. I have not yet been given I-829 data or staffing data, so I can’t tell whether the I-526 loss is temporary, and whether it is balanced by gains for I-829. If 232 IPO staff are mostly not processing I-526, and not processing I-924, they must be doing something EB-5-related, I hope? (Sarah Kendall attributed part of the huge IPO productivity drop in 2019 to “temporary assignment of IPO staff to other agency priorities” — i.e. staff sent outside to work on non-EB-5 cases. That was an inexcusable use of EB-5 fee-funded resources, and I hope that’s not happening again now.)

I note that 2/3 of IPO’s actions in July 2021 were sending RFEs and NOIDs, supporting my anecdotal observation that IPO rarely decides a direct EB-5 I-526 these days without sending an RFE first – often, an RFE that basically requests I-829 evidence. This practice naturally slows the process and reduces volume of completions.

If, as USCIS claims, “We generally process cases in the order we receive them,” then we’d see a fairly tight date distribution in I-526 actions. The July 2021 data, with actions distributed over I-526 from 2015 to 2019, reinforces what we can also see in the USCIS Processing Times Report “Estimated Time Range”: that I-526 processing is hardly FIFO in practice.

I was not told whether IPO is still using the visa availability approach for I-526, even now with the RC program expiration already drastically reducing the active I-526 inventory. It would be interesting to know whether any/many of the older I-526 actions in July 2021 were on Chinese cases. I do note that most denials in July were on the oldest cases, reinforcing the intuitive sense that delayed adjudication means higher adjudication risk.

USCIS does not normally report withdrawals, but for public policy reasons we need to know how many people are choosing to exit the program, even after having made investments. I will continue to track this number with interest and concern.

The details reported in this post are a fraction of what we’d like and need to know about what’s going on behind the scenes at IPO. I am thankful for whatever I can get, and will continue to make periodic (probably, monthly) reports so long as I can keep my sources. I hope that public exposure can help to encourage accountability and performance at IPO.  Going forward, IPO civil servants, please act like you are being observed and might be accountable to the public.

And for anyone at USCIS/IPO who sees this post, I welcome you to join my public-spirited leaker community. Reach out to me by phone or on Telegram at (626) 660-4030, and let’s chat. The list of areas where USCIS should but doesn’t have public transparency include IPO leadership, I-829 performance, IPO staffing allocation, IPO training, the country composition of the I-526 inventory, the distribution of I-526 receipts by regional center, reasons for increasing denial rates, and I-485 processing for EB-5 cases, to name a few priorities. I would love to hear and share confidentially whatever you can tell me in these areas, for the good of program integrity. And ideally: encourage leadership to start holding public EB-5 stakeholder meetings again, publish timely data for everyone on the USCIS website, and perform in a way that does not justify reproach and desperate measures to get basic information.

I am happy to see that leadership change is starting at the top anyway, with Ms. Ur. M. Jaddou now confirmed as USCIS Director. Her first statement this week sounds great: “As USCIS director, I will work each and every day to ensure our nation’s legal immigration system is managed in a way that honors our heritage as a nation of welcome and as a beacon of hope to the world; reducing unnecessary barriers and supporting our agency’s modernization.”

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.

37 Responses to I-526 Status Report: July 2021

  1. No Hopes says:

    Basically investors who are ready to invest with incentive to get Green Card invest $500,000 and pay fees to attorneys and USCIS are taken for granted once investment is done by Regional Centers and USCIS. Because after investment is done and USCIS fees is paid its their(investors) fault to take a chance in EB5 to get green card. RCs and government cannot be blamed. They got the money and fees. If I did my job like this with no accountability my employer will fire me. If I am providing services for fees and there are delays my customers will sue me. But I am not a government agency which is run on fees and tax payer dollars so I am accountable not the government.

  2. FCL says:

    Thank you Suzanne for this excellent post, as always.

    As an investor, and member of the EB5 telegram group, I also know that the I-526 “processing time” does not only span from submission to decision of approval or RFE/denial. Many of us in the consular process are experiencing an incredible wait from approval to shipping of the approved petition to the Department of State (NVC): Last individual reports show that it can take up to 7 months. This adds about 25% to the official already awful “processing times” of the I-526 petitions, and it is just impossible to figure out how a task of shipping a file can take this long. Also, how long does this process take within or in addition of the 8.65 hours of processing ?

    Do you have any information on what’s going on in this particular sub process ? how can it be explained ? (if it ever can be ?)

  3. Peter says:

    8.65 hours … but reality is you need to wait more than 30 months + a mandamus of up to 12 months on the top. Reality should be reported.

  4. Cecilia says:

    Thanks Suzanne ! Don’t know what we would do without you. Wonder same as you? Where have our fees gone🤔

  5. Megh says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    I received i526 approval notice in Dec2020 and have been waiting ever since to get it transferred to NVC. I already submitted multiple inquiries through USCIS online Portal as well as Congressman office and each time got meaningless same standard response. I even spoke to USCIS Level-2 officer and even their responses is standard. Also submitted several inquiries to NVC. Is this normal now a days?

      • Megh says:

        Answer of Question 16 is the standard response I received every time and In response of Question 26 they stated immigrant must email the IPO to ask about the file transfer. I have sent few request to file transfer on “USCIS.ImmigrantInvestorProgram@uscis.dhs.gov” Is this the IPO email id they refereeing to? Thank you.

    • Peter says:

      How many months it has taken to receive the approval?

      For me nothing works with mandamus and all is wanted … working with the capital as long as possible.

      • Megh says:

        Almost 48 months. How long do Mandamus takes to file.

        • Peter says:

          I am waiting 31 months now. Mandamus has taken 11 months. We got an agreement end of May for processing our application for end of July. Now… we are waiting again. You know the current situation. For everybody else: file a mandamus 6 months after your petition. Dont care what a lawyer is suggesting. Any petition should be adjudicated after 180 days, it relates to another case. Google for it. Thanks for your information.

          • H P says:

            Was that for AOS or EAD/AP? Which law firm you utilized? We brought mandamus (for AOS) and TRO (that was denied) but the government attorney verbally agreed to grant EAD/AP during sunset. Haven’t seen any movement though.

          • Peter says:

            It was the mandamus for I-526. To avoid everything, you should always file a mandamus after the minimum public processing time has passed. You can use any law firm, doesn’t matter.

            But until now, that’s my opinion … the entire EB-5 lobby and the government is working so close together that there main target is to keep your money as long as possible. I guess between 8-12 years, depends on the nationality.
            There is no other reason because why any tourist can receive a US tourist visa within weeks?! In my case I am expecting for each further step a mandamus.

  6. Mukund says:

    Thank you Suzanne for an excellent post.

  7. Ramagiri Mohanrangram Lokesh says:

    Any updates on regional center reauthorization?

    any updates on direct Eb-5 processing? how many direct eb5 were filed in Nov 2019?

    how long will it take to process until Nov 2019?

    • Peter says:

      95% are through RC. 5% is direct investment. Doesnt matter what you are choosing: they will always tell you the lowest average processing time – just like 14 month. Its not a lie but not the truth as well. Check out the processing times of each application form and you can see what to expect. What i want to say is: any eb5 takes in my opinion minimum 5 years until an approval of the i-526 + the time for the next steps. Just nobody wants to say that. Maybe other investors sharing us their experience and since when they are waiting! Would be great to know more 🙂

      • Bhavesh says:

        Peter, it DOES matter what we’re choosing, as the direct investment category is permanent, while regional centers are temporary. As we chose direct investment, we’re safe, while those who chose RCs are now suffering anxiety and depression, and that’s unfair to them.
        Neither the $ 3.5 trillion infrastructure bill nor the $1 Trillion have anything for regional centers, which basically means that pretty soon, there’ll be a tsunami of I-526 petitions being denied as visas under the category will cease to be available, and that will destroy thousands of lives and careers.
        Yes, I’m happy that my wait will come to an end a lot sooner than I expected, but I do feel sad about the thousands of fellow investors who’ve lost time and money.

        • Peter says:

          Bhavesh, are you trying to sell direct investments? Right now its only BS from your side.

          Almost nobody wants to run a direct investment, this is already confirmed by 95% of investment into RC. Last but not least, the great risk of a single direct investment and to keep it alive over 8 years and that’s for a slow motion government. No direct investment give you a faster path to a greencard. Don’t forget, the problem is not the investment/project it selfs, its just the lobby which takes influence to work on all cases in slow motion for keeping each investment as long as possible. If there would be the interested to make it faster, all EB5 investors could just pay an expedite processing fee same as it exists for the E2. But it just doesn’t exist for us!

          Be honest, until now you can almost never find real information about the reality of an EB5 investment. All information are provided by the lobby. Just made up for a great sale.

          • Don says:

            Hmmm, another one noticed this paid shill.

          • Ok ok, let’s call this thread closed. Bhavesh can no longer defend himself, and we all have better things to do. Points about the difficulties on both the RC and direct side are well taken. I have to chuckle at the very thought of getting paid to spend time commenting on my blog with surreptitious advertising but anyway, let’s move on.

  8. Roberto Virga says:

    Suzanne, thanks for all your great work.
    I noticed a typo in the reauthorization page, under Advocacy Events: the IIUSA webinar was held on July 7, not June 7.

  9. Lee says:

    The biggest problem is a long processing times. 5 to 6 years (even longer) to even get CPR? Simply ridiculous.

    • Bhavesh says:

      I agree with you Lee!
      This delay is appalling and counterproductive, and only deters affluent investors who create jobs, from making the US their home.
      In Portugal, we can get citizenship after 5 years. In Canada too, we can get citizenship in 4 years, if you can stand cold weather and high taxes. SMH.

  10. Lee says:

    The deterioration of USA starts within the government itself. The processing delay of 8 years for EB-5 case is a clear sign that US government is deteriorating. Shame really because most of EB-5 investors are exactly the type of people you want living in USA. They have no criminal records, they have business experience and money and they also end up spending a lot of money in USA.

  11. Hi Suzanne, thanks again for the post—always informative and helpful! Do you have any updates on I-829 processing time? Since this is the only form IPO could work on, I am assuming I-829s should be processed much faster—but looks like it is still very slow.

    Hope the IPO people are not reassigned to other task…but it seems to be the case since I-829 processing time has not been increasing

    • I am also worried about an apparent across-the-board slowdown at IPO, and hope to shortly have some inside info to report on I-829 processing. Official I-829 performance data for the current period will not be published until 2022, probably.

      • Slowdown is very possible due to the backlogs of nearly all types of forms within the USCIS. IPO staff might be sent to other teams.

        But personally, as long as they continue to adjudicate I-829, I can wait, even though it means 3-5 years. We are already lucky enough to not being impacted by the lapse…

  12. Any Updates says:

    So what next? Anything happening to re-authorize regional center EB5? any positive news … ?

  13. emran says:

    Hello Suzanne,
    Can you please share current PD of I-526?
    I’m direct investors, PD October 4th 2019 living in usa and my nationality is bangladeshi. when can i expect to hear something from USCIS.

    Thank you

  14. Rm Lokesh says:

    Hello Suzzane,

    Can you please share what dates of I526 are processing?

    Im direct investor, PD in Dec 2019 and I am in my home country India, when can I expect to hear from USCIS?

    How is the approval rates for Direct i526 ? Are they issuing RFE’s? if so what are those RFE’s related to?

  15. RM Lokesh says:

    Hi suzzane,

    If possible can you please share some RFE’s for Direct EB-5 projects recently?

  16. Lui says:

    Based on what is available on USCIS’ website, adjudicated cases in 2021 by quarter:
    1st quarter 1,123 I-526 + 682 I-829 = 1,805
    2nd quarter 882 I-526 + 603 I-829 = 1,485
    3rd quarter 727 I-526 + 448 I-829 = 1,175

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