EB-5 data shows a surge in filings and faster processing times  - EB5Investors.com

EB-5 data shows a surge in filings and faster processing times 

EB5Investors.com Staff

The recently released EB-5 filing data reveals a substantial surge in applications between January and March, an increase in application processing efficiency, and a promising reduction in the backlog by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)’s Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO). 

In the second quarter of fiscal year 2024, the USCIS reported 1,810 I-526E forms (for regional center investors), and 69 I-526 forms (for direct investors) were filed. These figures represent 66.5% and 56% of the total I-526s submitted since the beginning of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2023. They are also part of the 5,344 I-526s filings since the Reform and Integrity Act (RIA) was implemented in 2022. 

As to the EB-5 applications filed before RIA, 1,874 were completed, and 6,666 are still pending. Meanwhile, processing times for these forms diminished by an average of 52.5 months (an improvement compared with the 89.5 months the USCIS says it takes to process legacy cases on average).

It’s worth noting that this increased filing activity occurred before the fee hike on Apr. 1, which tripled the cost of submitting the I-526 form, the first step in the EB-5 processes. 

The EB-5 industry reception of the updated data has been positive. “We at AIIA are happy to see that there has finally been an uptick in IPO’s pre-RIA processing speed,” says Yiran Cheng, Head of Communications of the American Immigrant Investor Alliance. “Pre-RIA investors have been trapped in the vicious cycle of processing delays, visa backlog, and redeployment for far too long. It is imperative that IPO and the [Department of State] DOS seize the final fiscal year with an extra EB-5 visa allowance from rollover and fully utilize this opportunity to provide relief for all EB-5 investors. Meanwhile, AIIA is continuing FOIA litigation efforts to make the agency disclose how the March 2024 surge in I-526E filings breaks down by country and TEA category, to further understand the backlog severity for post-RIA investors.” 

What is the USCIS’ quarterly report for EB-5 applications?

The USCIS quarterly report provides the filing status and processing time data for several immigration forms, including EB-5 forms I-526, I-485 (DS-260 for EB-5 applicants submitted abroad), and I-829. 

This report allows tracking of the progress and performance of the EB-5 program on several aspects involving the forms. Received documents are the number of new applications or petitions received and entered into the agency’s case-tracking system during the reporting period. Completions are approvals plus denials granted in the reporting period. Pending forms are those I-526 forms awaiting a decision as of the end of the quarter, but these numbers do not reflect some actions like administrative closures and transfers between offices. Processing times are the time the USCIS took to complete 50% of all cases processed in the quarter. 

Only 10 EB-5 direct investor applications were approved during the quarter of all the I-526s applications received. The U.S. immigration agency did not provide data on the exact number of authorized regional center investor applications; however, it did report 162 completions (approved + denied) for this specific EB-5 form. During the quarter, there were also 3,672 I-526E and 267 direct investor applications pending processing. 

As of the 2024 fiscal year, 2,722 regional center EB-5 investors and 123 direct investors have submitted applications. Additionally, 356 regional center investor applications have been completed this fiscal year. Notably, the ten direct investor authorizations recorded in the second quarter are the only approvals registered since Oct. 1, 2023. 

Meanwhile, the USCIS also reported the approved EB-5 petitions awaiting visa availability in March. There are 13,411 unreserved EB-5 applications approved, of which 99.7% are for Chinese investors and the remaining 32 for Indian investors. Unreserved investments do not qualify as any of the three set-aside visas the RIA established: rural, high unemployment, and infrastructure projects.

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