USCIS Releases EB-5 Petition Processing Data for FY2023 Q2

Each quarter, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) releases new processing data for both EB-5 visa petitions: Form I-526 and Form I-829.

Form I-526 is the initial petition for a conditional Green Card. (The I-526 data discussed in this post include the new I-526E petition for regional center investors. Under the current program rules, Form I-526 is now a separate form for direct investors.)

Form I-829 is used to remove the conditions on an EB-5 investor’s Green Card.

The USCIS statistics cover the number of petition approvals, denials, pending cases, and receipts (new submissions) for January through March 2023—that is, quarter two of the 2023 fiscal year.

Since the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (the RIA) was signed into law in March 2022, EB-5 investors have access to a number of new immigration benefits. These could significantly increase demand and the volume of new petition receipts, especially from China and India.

Some of the most noteworthy features of the RIA include the following:

Download EB5AN’s analysis slides for a comprehensive breakdown of the FY2023 Q2 data, and continue reading for detailed analysis and key takeaways.

Note: As sometimes occurs in USCIS statistics, there are discrepancies between the quarterly and yearly processing data.

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

Data on I-526 Petition Processing

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FY2023 Q2 saw 535 new I-526 receipts, a slight decrease from the previous quarter’s 556 receipts.

The volume of new I-526 petition receipts has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels from before FY2020 Q2.

Still, the receipt volumes for the first two quarters of FY2023 remain significantly higher than those of FY2022. (The average quarterly receipt rate for FY2022 was only 207.)

With the new set-aside visa categories for Chinese and Indians, many industry members expect the volume of I-526 filings to increase throughout the remaining two quarters of FY2023.

Another important factor in renewing demand for the EB-5 visa is priority processing for rural projects. In July 2023, USCIS approved a rural-project I-526E petition—in only 11 months.

This remarkably fast processing time for an EB-5 petition shows that priority processing is truly effective.

In contrast, as of July 26, 2023, the USCIS “Check Case Processing Times” page reports that 80% of I-526 petitions are processed within 56.5 months, that is, nearly 5 years. The same page reports that Chinese investors can expect a wait of 81 months (nearly 7 years) or more.

Approvals and Denials

With 406 approved I-526 petitions, FY2023 Q2 saw I-526 approvals increase significantly compared to the previous quarter—even though the number of I-526 receipts decreased 4% at the quarterly level. FY2023 Q1 saw only 273 I-526 approvals.

FY2023 Q2 saw the highest I-526 approval volume since FY2021 Q3.

Similarly, the denial volume also increased at the quarterly level, from 207 in the previous quarter to 498 in FY2023 Q2.

I-526 Petition Summary

The higher volume of I-526 adjudications in FY2023 Q2—904 in total—will hopefully introduce a long-term trend of increased processing capacity for EB-5 petitions. This is the highest number of I-526 adjudications at the quarterly level since FY2021 Q3.

With a higher volume of filing fees from I-526 filings, USCIS may now have more resources to allocate to EB-5 processing. The agency has indicated that 95% of its revenue comes from filing fees.

The backlog of pending I-526 petitions decreased from 13,232 in the previous quarter to 11,602 in FY2023 Q2. This represents a welcome 12% reduction in the I-526 backlog.

In addition, the 11-month processing period for the recent rural I-526E petition suggests that filings in this project category will be processed significantly faster. Given the current high demand for rural EB-5 projects, this may be another important factor in reducing the I-526 petition backlog.

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For the first time, USCIS has also made available separate processing data for the I-526 and I-526E petitions for FY2023.

37 I-526 petitions were filed in FY2023 Q1, and 40 were filed in Q2.

In contrast, 470 I-526E petitions were filed in FY2023 Q1, and 495 were filed in Q2.

The regional center investment model remains by far the most popular option for EB-5 visa applicants.

Data on I-829 Petition Processing

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Form I-829 receipts increased significantly on the quarterly level, reaching 352 in FY2023 Q2. This represents a 335% growth rate from the previous quarter, which saw only 81 I-829 receipts.

Since Form I-829 is filed at the end of an EB-5 investor’s two-year conditional residency period, it will likely take years until the renewed demand for EB-5 immigration is reflected in a sustained increase of I-829 filings.

Approvals and Denials

Both I-829 approvals and denials increased in FY2023 Q2. There were 362 approvals and 85 denials.

I-829 Petition Summary

As has been the trend for the past several fiscal years, USCIS has made minimal progress toward clearing the backlog of I-829 petitions. The I-829 backlog stood at 10,542 pending petitions by the end of FY2023 Q2.

In total, 352 I-829 petitions were filed in FY2023 Q2, and 447 were adjudicated.

Forms I-526 and I-829 Processing Data Comparison

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At the end of FY2023 Q2, USCIS had a backlog of 11,602 pending I-526 petitions and 10,542 I-829 petitions.

The processing volume for both petitions has remained relatively low since FY2021 Q3. Still, FY2023 Q2 saw the largest total processing volume since FY2021 Q2.

USCIS director Ur Jaddou has stated her intention to improve petition processing times. Moreover, the agency plans to raise filing fees—which may lead to significantly increased resources for adjudication—in early 2024.

The processing data for FY2024 will likely reveal whether these factors and the immigration benefits of the RIA will have a significant impact on EB-5 petition processing times.

Analyzing Trends in EB-5 Petition Processing

The data for FY2023 Q2 offers important insights into the evolving landscape of EB-5 visa petition processing. With a slight decrease in I-526 receipts from the previous quarter, the filing volumes have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Still, FY2023’s first two quarters have significantly higher volumes compared to FY2022, a trend that could be attributable to the new immigration benefits under the RIA, especially for investors from China and India.

China and India have historically been the largest EB-5 markets.

The fast 11-month processing of a rural-project I-526E petition shows the potential of priority processing, and might incentivize future I-526E filings.

However, the ongoing backlog of both I-526 and I-829 petitions, coupled with relatively low overall processing volumes, underscores the challenges faced by USCIS in dealing with the rising demand.

Future improvements in processing times will likely depend on the potential filing fee increases and higher demand under the RIA.