Alert: USCIS Updates Visa Availability Approach for Managing Form I-526 Petition Inventory

07.18.23 | Government Affairs

Today, USCIS published an update regarding its management of Form I-526 case processing, aiming to improve the current visa availability approach and enhance efficiency. In particular, USCIS has announced that Form I-526 petitions filed on or before November 30, 2019, will be organized into groups based on the new commercial enterprise associated with each petition and placed into a queue depending on 1) whether the EB-5 projects have undergone review and 2) whether a visa number is available or expected to become available in the near future.

USCIS has highlighted that assigning multiple petitions linked to the same new commercial enterprise to the same adjudicators will facilitate more streamlined processing. In an email alert, USCIS stated, “this approach will enable USCIS to gain greater processing efficiencies and reduce backlogs.” As of December 31, 2022, there are still over 13,200 pending I-526 cases at USCIS.

See below for the full text of the updated alert notice on USCIS website:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is announcing an update to the visa availability approach to managing the inventory of Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor. The visa availability approach applies to pre-EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 Form I-526 petitions and prioritizes the assignment of such petitions for investors with an available visa or a visa that will be available soon. The USCIS Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) manages this Form I-526 petition inventory through workflow queues factoring in whether: a visa is available (or will be available soon) and the underlying project has been reviewed. Workflow queues are generally managed in first-in, first-out (FIFO) order when a visa is available or will be available soon. Effective July 2023, IPO will update this approach by grouping petitions by new commercial enterprise (NCE) with filing dates on or before Nov. 30, 2019, within the workflow queue of petitions where the project has been reviewed and there is a visa available or soon to be available, to gain greater processing efficiencies.



The purpose of updating the visa availability approach is to enable USCIS to increase productivity and more efficiently process Form I-526 petitions. As described in more detail below, IPO will group petitions in the third queue by NCE with filing dates on or before Nov. 30, 2019, because adjudicators can process Form I-526 petitions more efficiently when they are working multiple petitions associated with the same NCE given the overlap in project documents and issues presented.


Updated Process Description and Rationale

Under the visa availability inventory management approach, IPO determines visa availability and queues up the Form I-526 inventory into three workflows on a monthly basis as discussed here (PDF, 238.48 KB).

  • The first queue contains Form I-526 petitions where a visa is not yet available and not soon to be available and is ordered first-in, first-out.
  • The second queue contains petitions related to projects that IPO has not previously reviewed and have a visa immediately available or soon to be available. IPO reviews projects in the second queue in order from oldest to newest.
  • The third queue contains Form I-526 petitions that have an available (or soon to be available) visa and either a reviewed project or “non-pooled” (single investor) standalone project. This queue is organized by receipt date of the Form I-526 petition (from oldest to newest). This is the queue from which Form I-526 petitions are assigned to officers for adjudication. Form I-526 petitions have generally been assigned to officers in first-in, first-out order.


The update to the visa availability approach is effective July 18, 2023. IPO will group petitions by NCE with filing dates on or before Nov. 30, 2019, within the third queue. These petitions will be assigned by NCE using a FIFO methodology, namely, by date of the earliest filed petition in that queue for each NCE. Given the large volume of petitions filed shortly before the EB-5 modernization rule had taken effect in November 2019 and because the project documents are often the same, assigning multiple petitions associated with the same NCE to the same adjudicator(s) will enable IPO to gain greater processing efficiencies, reduce the backlog and Form I-526 completion times, and support consistency and accuracy in adjudications, while maintaining fairness given the closeness in the filing dates of these petitions.


USCIS is committed to reducing its Form I-526 petition backlog and completion times and has determined that this update to the visa availability approach will help the agency achieve this goal.


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