Accidentally released USCIS processing data shows where the agency is at in mid 2022, according to EB-5 processing expert Suzanne Lazicki: 97 I-526 petitions (about 269 visas) were approved in May, way up from the 9 petitions approved in February. However, this is still just one-third of the efficiency needed to issue 10,000 visas in a standard year. So while progress is happening, much more is needed. Lazicki also observes that USCIS is processing petitions with priority dates ranging from 2013 to 2022.
The USCIS data in question was not intended to be shared. “Fortunately, USCIS also leaks,” Lazicki declares while adding she is “delighted” to report on such a leak.
USCIS processing has been both a head-scratcher and a headache for the past several years. While only a handful of years ago the Immigration Service was adjudicating I-526 petitions in about a year, that same process can now take several years for a standard (non-Rural and non-expedited) petition.
Given that a typical year makes 10,000 EB-5 Green Cards available, to keep up with this volume USCIS must process about 3,600 petitions (an average of 36% of petitions go to the principal applicant). Here are the recent processing numbers Lazicki acquired from the data leak:
1,004 (monthly average: 334)
752 (monthly average: 251)
592 (monthly average: 197)
50 (monthly average: 17)
16 (monthly average: 5)
The precipitous plummet in numbers as of July 2021 reflects the expiry of the Regional Center Program when USCIS only had direct EB-5 petitions to process.
Processing is not just first-in, first out - but all over
In January of 2020, USCIS announced it would move on from the “first-in, first-out” processing system to one based on visa availability, prioritizing petitions for applicants for whom a visa is either currently available or soon to be available.
However, it may surprise people that, as Lazicki tells us, “on any given day, the handful of EB-5 actions completed can include I-526s with priority dates anywhere from 2013 to 2022.” For her, this indicates a “disordered process.”
In May 2022, a little over 50 of the 97 approved petitions were from 2018; about 20 were from 2019; the remaining were mostly from 2016, 2017, an 2015, with a couple outliers from 2021 and 2014 or earlier.
USCIS Director Jaddou promised ‘timely’ processing — when will that time come?
President Biden chose Ur Jaddou to be Director of USCIS in 2021. At her confirmation she declared that efficient processing is one of her priorities. And in a listening session from April 29, 2022, she reinforced this commitment:
“I firmly believe that every applicant who seeks a benefit from USCIS is entitled to a timely decision – be it a yes or no. This is about delivering tools to our workforce to efficiently and effectively adjudicate cases and reduce processing times.”
Some progress has occurred with processing in the last few months, but with numbers still far below what is needed to distribute the full amount of EB-5 Green Cards available, we must hope that the leaked numbers suggest a steady ascent and not a plateau. As always in EB-5, we must wait to find out.
See Lazicki’s blog “I-526 Processing Update (May 2022)”