On November 21, 2014, USCIS published an update on adjudication data for the I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneurs for fiscal years 2008 through 2014. The data demonstrates that the number of I-526 petitions received and processed by USCIS has increased exponentially in the last six years. For instance, the number of new petitions received and entered into the system for the reporting period of fiscal year 2008 was 1,258. By the end of fiscal year 2014, however, the number of new petitions received for that reporting period had increased to 10,928.
USCIS has tried to keep up with the increase in the volume of I-526 petitions by increasing its I-526 processing volume (the sum of those petitions approved and those denied). For instance, for fiscal year 2008, the total number of petitions was 762. By 2014, however, the total number of petitions processed had increased to 6,381.
The increase in processing volume over the last six years, however, has not been sufficient to keep up with the rising numbers of petitions. In fact, the largest increase of all categories in the data is reflected in the number of petitions awaiting a decision (“pending”) per reporting period. For instance, the total number of pending petitions for 2008 was 853. By 2014, however, the total number of petitions that remained pending had increased to 12,453. Therefore, the data demonstrates that the volume of petitions awaiting a decision has increased dramatically from 2008 to 2014. As such, USCIS has been unable to prevent a rise in the number of pending petitions for every year of the last seven.
On the bright side, the data demonstrates that the majority of I-526s processed by USCIS have been approved between 2008 and 2014. For instance, in the first quarter of 2014, there was a 35 percent decrease in the number of denied I-526 petitions, and by the fourth quarter of 2014, there was a 6 percent decrease in the number of denied I-526 petitions. This significant drop can be attributed to several factors, including the fact that attorneys, investors, and USCIS officials are becoming more familiar with the EB-5 program and its regulations. Further, the updated data shows that USCIS approved slightly more petitions in 2014 than it did in 2013, as there was a slight increase in the percentage of approvals from 2013 to 2014. In 2013, for instance, the percentage of approvals was 79.7, whereas in 2014, the percentage of approvals was 80.05.
The updated statistics continue to show that even though there was an increase in I-526 filings within 2014, during fiscal year 2014 there was a decrease in both the approved and denied I-526 petitions from one quarter to the next. Notably, the substantial increases in the numbers of pending petitions from one quarter to the next for fiscal year 2014 demonstrate that USCIS is receiving more petitions than it can adjudicate.
On November 21, 2014, USCIS also published an adjudication data update for the I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions. The updated statistics for I-829s demonstrate that USCIS received and processed twice as many I-829 petitions this year as last. Significantly, the data demonstrates that the number of approved I-829s has increased dramatically since 2008. For instance, the number of approved petitions in 2008 was 161, and the number of denials was 69. By the end of 2014, however, 1,603 investors had removed conditions for that year. This data continues to demonstrate that as the adjudication of I-829 petitions is becoming more active, we will continue to see an increase in the number of petitions filed, approved, and pending, as we have seen within the statistics for year 2014. Interestingly, the trend for I-829 petition denials within 2014 has varied – we have seen an increase between the first and second quarter from 43 to 75 denials, followed by a steep decline in the third quarter to 12 denials, which was then followed by an increase in the fourth quarter to 48 denials. As such, only a total of 178 I-829 petitions were denied in 2014.
Overall, the updated statistics demonstrate that processing volumes have improved significantly for I-829 petitions. They also indicate that I-829 petitions will continue to grow, thus increasing the need for USCIS to ensure reasonable I-829 processing times.