I-526, I-829, and I-485 Processing (FY2022 Q3 report and leaked data)

Last week, USCIS updated the Immigration and Citizenship Data page with reports for FY2022 Q3 (April to June 2022). I collected EB-5-specific data from the All Forms and I-485 reports, summarized below, and created charts to place the reports in context.

FY2022 Q3 Performance Data Report Excerpt

FormDescriptionReceivedApprovedDeniedTotal CompletedPending at period endProcessing Time (months)
I-526Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor3226419145512,98843.8
I-829Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions2003404938911,52348.1
I-485I-485 at the California Service Center (WSC)1,396372544265,323

Points I notice in the Q3 data report:

  • USCIS has not yet started reporting data for the new EB-5 forms (the I-956s or I-526E). The report does include the pending I-924 (139) and I-924A (1,813) that may not ever be adjudicated.
  • Q3 saw over a thousand I-485 receipts at California Service Center, but only a few dozen I-526 receipts. I’m not surprised, considering that Q3 was the first quarter under the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act.
  • Q3 completion rates for I-526, I-829, and I-485 were all much higher than the previous quarter (an encouraging trend), and still very low in context of historical performance and the backlog (a notable fact). Significant room for improvement remains, as illustrated in the long-term trend charts provided below.
  • Dividing “Pending at period end” by “Total completed” for each form, we can derive a processing time estimate that will apply to a petition at the end of each queue if USCIS continues the same productivity it achieved in Q3. Result: 7.1 years for I-526, 3.1 years for I-485, and 7.4 years for I-829. We need to keep pressing USCIS to increase processing volume going forward, to avoid that unacceptable result. (When I redo the calculation using trailing 12-month completions in the denominator rather than just Q3 completions, then the result stays at 7 years for I-829 but increases to 13 years for I-526 and 6 years for I-485. Yikes! We now know that in 2021/2022, the Investor Program Office lost a large number of its productive staff and kept less productive staff. That’s a problem that that doesn’t solve quickly. I was encouraged to see a few more IPO job announcements this month, and look forward to seeing some results from their work in 2023/24 once they’re hired and trained.)
  • The Processing Time column in the USCIS report indicates the median processing time of cases decided in the reported quarter.  I tend to disregard this number because it’s (1) not predictive (simply reflects one point of past performance) and (2) not generally applicable even to past performance (the processing time range behind this median is extremely wide, as further discussed below).
  • The I-526 denial rate remains alarming: 42% of I-526 decisions in April to June 2022 were denials. The large number of denials reflects attitudes at the Investor Program Office, particularly toward direct EB-5 cases, and particularly since the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act protected USCIS from judicial review of unjust EB-5 decisions. (During the RC program lapse, a majority of the reported “denied” I-526 were actually just withdrawn I-526, but the Q3 denials are largely denials.) Litigators, is there anything we can do about systemic adjudication problems behind mass denials, or do petitioners really just have to fight battles individually in the sluggish AAO process?

As an aside, note that USCIS is making what might be a good faith effort to improve case processing reporting, and solicits public input. Here is a copy of an email I received yesterday from USCIS, inviting people who have filed a form with USCIS in the past 12 months (or their advocates) to apply for participation in a focus group. This group will help USCIS “understand if the information provided on the Check Case Processing Times webpage is useful.” Consider applying to participate! It’s always possible that the current Check Case Processing Times page isn’t the way it is out of malice. Maybe USCIS would truly like to design a page that’s useful to applicants wanting to understand processing times, not only useful to USCIS for the purposes of obscuring processing trends and blocking case inquiries.  

USCIS data reports show the total size of the EB-5 form workload, and the rate at which USCIS is working on it. USCIS does not officially give visibility into which dates they are actively processing, and which they are leaving behind. For that, we have to consult anecdotal evidence and leaks. I’m not saying where I got the detail reported in the following charts, but I judge that the detail is accurate and close to complete. As illustrated in the charts, the Investor Program Office is far from implementing a first-come-first-served process. This complicates time estimates for individual cases.

Points I note from the unofficial data.

  • Over the past year, I-829 processing has generally clustered around petitions filed in 2019, but also included many I-829 filed in 2017 and 2018, and a few filed as early as 2015 and as late as 2021. I do not know the reasons for departing from FIFO discipline in I-829 adjudications. Is there an element of randomness in case assignment resulting from paper files and lax management? Is USCIS trying to group I-829 from different filing dates by project, to process the project all at once? Are expedite approvals and mandamus actions having a significant impact? Are certain groups of I-829 intentionally left untouched or taking years of touch time for reasons related to policy or litigation? If anyone would like to leak reasons to me, please reach out on email, phone, or Telegram.
  • I-526 processing has ranged broadly over the past year. Recent I-526 approvals have settled into a sort of cluster on I-526 filed in December 2018, but also covered many cases from the end of 2019 (probably mostly direct investor petitions assigned during the RC program shutdown), I-526 filed in 2021/22 (probably mostly I-526 with expedites granted – or possibly cherry-picked to make the median processing time report look better) and a wide range of I-526 filed before 2018 (selected out of the unadjudicated backlog for unknown reasons, and incidentally convenient for making the 80th percentile case inquiry cut-off more restrictive). My charts highlight timing for I-526 approvals and RFEs. The denial picture is more murky, since USCIS mixes denials and withdrawals, but I note generally that denied petitions tend to be older than approved petitions. The data supports a reasonable hypothesis: that the longer an I-526 stays unadjudicated, the more likely it is to end in denial or withdrawal.
  • USCIS has cleared close to 100% of I-526 filed up through September 2015 (the end of the last long-term RC program authorization), but still has a significant pending inventory of untouched I-526 from every quarter since then. The visa availability approach can explain about half of these left-behind I-526. As a reminder, you can find the most recent breakdown of total pending I-526 by country of petitioner origin in the March 2022 Oppenheim presentation for IIUSA (slide 8). This PDF from October 2018 was the last detailed per-country inventory breakdown published by USCIS. My information for I-829 is less complete, so I did not attempt a detailed I-829 inventory breakdown.

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.

12 Responses to I-526, I-829, and I-485 Processing (FY2022 Q3 report and leaked data)

  1. Jay says:

    Any thoughts regarding movement of dates for India (Regional Center) past November 2019 anytime soon? Should we expect date to remain stagnant for the remainder of year like China? I have just filed WoM for my 2019 petition (Priority date Nov-20 2019) and wondering if this was a bad move?????

    • The movement of the India date in the visa bulletin depends on when India demand “materializes” (see the picture in my previous post), which depends on the speed/volume of pre-visa-stage processing. With a Nov. 2019 filing date, your only hope of beating the visa bulletin is if you reach the visa stage in advance of the crowd of other Indians with earlier filing dates. That would require you getting ahead at the I-526 stage, so the WoM may have been a good move, if it works.

      • Jay says:

        Thank you, Suzanne. Much appreciated as always. Lessons learnt; EB-5 is not for someone who is faint at heart.

    • Krish Vr says:


      Let me know how does the wow goes through. My priority date is Nov 21 2019 as well.


  2. Katy B says:

    Seven years for I526 processing!! Why is the industry not being more vocal in demanding that USCIS addresses this? The new set-aside visas will not be much of a marketing tool if new investors think they will have to wait over 7 years to immigrate.

  3. Naima Jahan says:

    My priority date Aug. 2019. When I can expect approval?

  4. Ricardo says:

    I am from Brazil and my PD Oct 2019. Waiting for approval

  5. Kaustubh says:

    Its not uniform across countries but Indian applicants with a PD if OCT-DEC 2018 are getting interviews.

  6. V says:

    I think Trump did well then Biden in legal immigration as per USCIS reprort

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