by Lee Li, IIUSA Policy Analyst
Fiscal year (FY) 2018 presented both opportunities and challenges to all stakeholders in the EB-5 industry. While historically high numbers of qualified EB-5 investors received their I-526 or I-829 approvals thanks to the enhanced productivity at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the estimated new EB-5 investments made in FY2018 fell more than 47% year-over-year, hitting its lowest level since FY2014. This was largely due to the uncertainty of the EB-5 Regional Center Program as well as the long wait of EB-5 visa allocation caused by the current visa backlog. In short, there is a lot that the processing data of I-526 and I-829 petitions can tell us about the biggest trends in the EB-5 industry in FY2018. Let’s cover it lightning-round style:
USCIS BOOSTED ITS PRODUCTIVITY ON PROCESSING I-526 PETITIONS BY 20% YEAR-OVER-YEAR
In FY2018, USCIS adjudicated approximately 14,852 I-526 petitions, up from 12,234 cases one year ago, representing an improvement of its productivity by more than 20% year-over-year. According to Ms. Sarah M. Kendall, Chief of the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) at USCIS, the I-526 adjudication team was “fully staffed” in 2018, and IPO anticipates continuing to be “as productive and (is) aiming to be more productive” in processing I-526 cases moving forward.
In fact, the data on I-526 adjudications year-over-year illustrates the continued growth of IPO’s productivity on processing I-526 petitions. As Figure 1 shows, the number of annual I-526 adjudications is up from 4,642 in FY2013 to 14,852 in FY2018, a growth of 220% over the last six fiscal years. Given the decline of I-526 filings in FY2018, IPO processed nearly 8,430 more I-526 cases than it received in FY2018, the biggest gap between I-526 filings and I-526 completions in the EB-5 history.