The EB-5 program is one of the most popular visa-by-investment programs in the world. By choosing targeted employment area (TEA) projects, foreign nationals can make an EB-5 investment at only $500,000. Moreover, the EB-5 program’s requirements are clear and reasonable. Even though many foreign nationals have participated in the EB5 investment industry, the program is experiencing a significant challenge: the processing times for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) visa petitions are often slow. Form I-829 is among the visa petitions subject to long adjudication times.
What is Form I-829?
As part of the EB-5 application process, USCIS requires investors to submit two petitions: Form I-526 and Form I-829. The former allows applicants to obtain a conditional residency, while the latter grants permanent resident status.
In Q3 of FY2021, the USCIS backlog of I-829 petitions in the processing queue was 11,160, representing an 8% increase from Q2. Of the I-829 petitions that were processed in Q3, 24% were denied.
These statistics spell bad news for the EB-5 investment industry; USCIS’s processing inefficiency has caused many EB-5 investors to wait for unreasonable amounts of time before relocating to the United States. This may cause the program to lose some of its prestige.
Will Form I-829 Processing Improve?
Despite these figures, recent developments indicate that USCIS may be taking action to improve Form I-829 processing times. This can only be achieved by placing an increased organizational emphasis on visa petition adjudication. Doing so would allow the EB-5 investment industry to retain its credibility and status.
In July 2021, Ur Jaddou was appointed as director of USCIS. Aware of the problems that have been plaguing the EB-5 program during recent years, she has committed to focusing on the issue of processing delays. Jaddou claims that she will work to eliminate visa backlogs and improve the efficiency of the petition processing system.
While the EB-5 Regional Center Program remains closed, the volume of new l-526 petitions will undoubtedly be lower than in recent years. Hopefully, this will allow USCIS adjudicators to work on clearing the existing backlogs and implementing systemic improvements. In fact, the EB-5 industry received encouraging news in the August 2021 Visa Bulletin: Vietnam’s prolonged processing backlog had finally ended. Many EB-5 industry members hope that USCIS will also try to clear the Chinese backlog.