EB-5 Application Processing Data for FY2023 Q1

  Author: Samuel B. Silverman

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released processing data for EB-5 visa applications covering October through December 2023—that is, FY2023 Q1. These statistics cover the number of receipts, approvals, denials, and pending cases of Form I-526 (including the new Form I-526E for regional center investors) and Form I-829.

Form I-526 is the initial application an investor submits for a conditional U.S. Green Card.

To remove the conditions on their Green Card at the end of the EB-5 immigration process, an investor then submits Form I-829.

The FY2023 Q1 data reflect a surge in demand for the EB-5 visa. This renewed interest in the EB-5 program is likely due to the following factors:

Download EB5AN’s analysis slides for a comprehensive breakdown of the FY2031 Q1 data, and continue reading for detailed analysis and key takeaways.

Download EB5AN Analysis Slides on I-526 and I-829 Processing Statistics


Data on I-526 Petition Processing


At the quarterly level, receipts (that is, new submissions) of Form I-526 have increased significantly since FY2022. In FY2022 Q4, there were only 188 I-526 receipts—and there were only 32 receipts in FY2022 Q3.

In contrast, FY2023 Q1 saw 556 new I-526 receipts. This is the highest quarterly volume of I-526 receipts since FY2020 Q1, before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted demand for the EB-5 program.

Many industry members expect the I-526 filing volume to increase steadily over the remainder of FY2023, especially from Chinese investors.

In fact, The Wire China has already reported on renewed interest in the EB-5 visa thanks to the set-aside categories. In a recent article, EB5AN managing partner Sam Silverman noted that “The new categories present a once-in-thirty-year opportunity. For the last five years, there was minimal demand [from Chinese investors]. Now, it is bouncing back.”

Approvals and Denials

Starting in FY2021 Q4, USCIS significantly lowered the volume of I-526 approvals, reaching a low of only 16 approvals in FY2022 Q1. This trend continued until FY2022 Q3.

Despite the increased volume of receipts, the number of approvals in FY2023 Q1—273—increased only slightly from the previous quarter.

On the other hand, denials decreased somewhat from FY2022 Q4, reaching 207 in FY2023 Q1.

I-526 Petition Summary

The volume of I-526 receipts has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, the backlog of pending I-526 cases increased at the quarterly level from 13,062 to 13,232.

This trend indicates that USCIS’s processing capacity for EB-5 applications remains limited.

USCIS has indicated that 95% of its revenue comes from filing fees. Therefore, a surge in new applications may provide the agency with the resources needed to increase its processing capacity. In fact, as of October 2022, all I-526E applicants are required to pay an additional $1,000 besides the filing fee of $3,675.

Should USCIS increases its processing speed for EB-5 applications, demand for the EB-5 visa would likely increase even further. However, EB-5 processing times have historically gotten longer, with China in a visa processing backlog since 2015.

In total, 556 I-526 petitions were received in FY2023 Q1, and 480 were adjudicated.

Data on I-829 Petition Processing


I-829 receipts rose only slightly this quarter, reaching 81. This represents a 17% growth rate from the previous quarter.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the nine-month suspension of the regional center program, the volume of I-829 filings dropped sharply starting in FY2022 Q3.

If I-526 filings indeed increase throughout FY2023, it can take several years for this trend to be reflected in a higher volume of I-829 receipts.

Approvals and Denials

Both I-829 approvals (307) and denials (29) declined at the quarterly level. I-829 approvals and denials had quarterly growth rates of -27% and -29%, respectively.

I-829 Petition Summary

In this quarter, USCIS managed to cut down the backlog of pending I-829 petitions by only 2%. There were 10,906 pending applications by the end of FY2023 Q1.

In total, 81 I-829 petitions were filed in FY2023 Q1, and 336 were adjudicated.

Forms I-526 and I-829 Processing Data Comparison

As of FY2023 Q1, USCIS had a backlog of 13,232 pending I-526 petitions and 10,906 I-829 petitions.

Interestingly, the volume of both I-526 and I-829 adjudications decreased at the quarterly level. While a total of 994 EB-5 petitions were processed in FY2022 Q4, 816 were processed in FY2023 Q1.

This is still a substantially higher processing volume than FY2022 Q1, which saw the lowest number of quarterly adjudications in recent years: 387.

Progress Toward Clearing the EB-5 Petition Backlog?

The processing data for FY2023 Q1 reflect a surge in demand for the EB-5 visa program.

Factors contributing to this increased interest include the introduction of new set-aside visa categories for Chinese and Indian investors, the reauthorization of the EB-5 program in mid-2022, and the enhanced investor security and transparency provided by the RIA.

The data show a significant increase in new Form I-526 receipts. At the same time, the backlog of pending I-526 cases increased, suggesting that USCIS’s processing capacity remains limited.

Similarly, the volume of I-829 receipts and adjudications remained relatively stable, with a slight increase in receipts and a decline in approvals and denials.

Overall, USCIS will need to address the EB-5 application backlog and further increase processing efficiency to accommodate the growing demand for the EB-5 program.

According to USCIS’s “Check Case Processing Times” page, 80% of I-526 petitions from non-backlogged countries are processed within 60 months. While many investors experience shorter processing times, this still reveals a need for increased processing capacity.

On the other hand, USCIS indicates that 80% of Chinese I-526 petitions are completed within 80.5 months—nearly 7 years.

It is worth noting that the rural TEA set-aside category grants priority processing to EB-5 applicants. Depending on how much faster USCIS processed rural EB-5 petitions, this may be a contributing factor toward reducing the backlog of both I-526 and I-829 petitions.

The renewed interest in EB-5 immigration in the Chinese market may be the key factor in granting USCIS the additional resources it needs to allocate to processing EB-5 petitions.