By Marta Lillo
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released its end of fiscal year (FY) 2023 data report summarizing its progress in meeting its strategic priorities for its different non-immigrant and immigrant visa programs. For the EB-5 investor visa program in particular, the agency emphasized several updates it made in policy guidance.
In a statement, USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou praised the agency’s workforce for their service and dedication to complete “a record number of cases, responded to emerging crises around the globe with essential humanitarian relief, and applied innovative solutions to improve customer experience and reduce backlogs.”
USCIS reduces visa processing backlog despite historic filings
The agency said it had received 10.9 million filings and completed more than 10 million pending cases last year, which are “record-breaking numbers.”
However, it was still able to reduce overall backlogs by 15%. “By the end of FY 2023, the USCIS net backlog (cases pending outside of target processing times) was 4.3 million cases, down over 760,000 (15%) from more than 5 million cases at the end of FY 2022.”
FY 2023 is the first fiscal year when the USCIS successfully reduced the backlog in over a decade after a spike that followed the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The backlog grew by 16% in FY 2022, which was slower growth than the two previous years – 43% in FY 2021 and 26% in FY 2020,” the agency said.
The establishment of new internal cycle time goals for processing 25 forms in March 2022 also helped the agency’s backlog reduction efforts.
The USCIS explained a cycle time measures how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form await a decision. In the case of EB-5 forms I-526s and I-485s, the goal was set at 6 months. However, the actual cycle time took longer than the agency’s publicly stated goal for these forms, according to the report. The processing did go down from 54.5 months (4.5 years) in FY 2022 to 44.6 months (3.6 years) in the period.
EB-5 program policy updates and fee hikes
The agency issued more than 192,000 visas for employment-based immigrant visa programs, “above the pre-pandemic number – and, for the second year running, ensured that no available visas went unused,” the USCIS said.
The agency also recapped several updates to its policy guidance for the EB-5 investor visa program, including “incorporating statutory reforms to the Regional Center Program as they relate to regional center designation and other requirements for immigrant investors.”
Finally, the agency explained that all accomplishments achieved in the past fiscal year were “within the constraints of a fee schedule that was last updated in 2016, which led to the fee hike in February 2024.”
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