Q2 2017 EB-5 Petition Processing Data, Audits, Leahy letter
June 8, 2017
The USCIS Immigration and Citizenship Data page has been updated with data from FY2017 Q2 (January to March) for petitions including I-526 and I-829.
A few points to note:
The fall in I-526 receipts was to be expected, since the previous quarters represented unnatural filing surges around sunset dates. Even 1,731 receipts in one quarter is not sustainable, however. So long as annual EB-5 visas are limited to about 10,000 for investors plus family members, only about 3,330 investors per year can get visas. The US actually benefited from 13,148 EB-5 investments over the past four quarters – but that’s almost four years of visa numbers for investors plus family. Such a situation is not sustainable. If Congress wants to welcome more than 3,330 investments per year in the future, it needs to address visa availability.
USCIS processed 567 fewer I-526s this quarter than last quarter – not good news.
USCIS processed about 200 more I-829 petitions this quarter than last quarter – improvement, but not enough. If IPO continues processing about 300 I-829s per quarter, it will take over six years just to work through the existing backlog of I-829s. The California Service Center managed to process over 800 petitions in the final quarter that it handled I-829, and even IPO did better in early 2016 than it’s doing now. IPO announced their new I-829 adjudications unit in early March, so we may have to wait for Q3 stats to see real improvement.
The number of I-829 receipts has dropped the last two quarters. I wonder if this reflects petitioners giving up before reaching I-829, or being held up in the waiting line for conditional permanent residence.
The backlog of pending petitions is a tiny bit less dire than last quarter.
While inputting receipt numbers from this processing data report, it occurred to me to try linking them with the dates in the IPO processing time reports. For example, IPO seems to have been working forever on I-526 cases filed in September 2015, and we might explain this this by looking at the surge in I-526 receipts around September 2015. So I added a tab to my processing times log that tries to make the link. My calculations don’t look right, which may be additional evidence that IPO processing time reports do not simply reflect FIFO case processing.
Regional Center Audits
Notes from a May 12, 2017 meeting between AILA and the USCIS Field Operations Directorate has some Q&A on EB-5 questions (page 10-15), including:
EB-5 Regional Center Compliance Audit Program: USCIS answered practical questions about the process and content of an audit.
Investors in terminated RCs: USCIS said that “Until a regional center that has been issued a Notice of Termination exhausts its administrative remedies before USCIS, the agency will generally delay final adjudication or revocation of I-526 petitions associated with that regional center if the sole factor determining petitioner eligibility is the termination of the regional center’s designation.” (This is a welcome statement considering past evidence to the contrary.)
Regional Center amendments: In another installment of confusing guidance, USCIS indicated that amendments are required for both geographic area expansion and changes to ownership/org structure/administration, but not “required” in the same sense. The geographic area amendment must be “filed and approved” before I-526s are filed, while “Regional center projects are not on hold while the amendment is pending” in the case of an ownership change amendment