Yes, experts within the EB-5 industry expect processing times for I-526E petitions to speed up soon.
The United States government, specifically the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is prioritizing the hiring of additional staff in response to the current backlog of pending EB-5 applications. According to new job postings on the USAjobs.gov website, IPO is hiring for job openings at its offices with the goal of achieving efficiency and speeding up EB-5 petition processing times.
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program was first introduced by the U.S. Congress in 1990 with the intent of promoting job growth for U.S. persons and boosting the economy through the injection of foreign capital. By investing a minimum of $800,000 in a new commercial enterprise in the United States, foreign investors can obtain the U.S. Green Card for themselves and their family members, including spouse and children under the age of 21.
USCIS offices experienced disruptions during the spread of Covid-19 both due to office shut downs and less revenue from the lower number of applications received. According to the USCIS Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 progress report, during the Covid pandemic in April and May of 2020, USCIS revenue dropped by 40% leading to low cash reserves. In response, USCIS initiated a hiring freeze and issued furlough notices to 70% of its workforce. According to the report, with the rebound of revenue in June 2020, “furlough notices were revoked, but adjudication capacity was severely impaired by the continued hiring freeze, workforce attrition, and $500 million in budget cuts that included reducing contract worker staffing at the National Benefits Center by over 1,000 positions. These contract workers play a critical role in preparing cases for adjudication by our USCIS workforce.”
During several EB-5 stakeholder engagements, IPO has announced that its goal is to hire new staff to achieve operational efficiency. The recent job postings demonstrate that IPO is staying true to its word. Since September 2022, there have been many job postings on the USAjobs.gov website, ranging from positions such as adjudication officer to immigration services analyst. The goal is to speed up the EB-5 petition adjudication process and at the same time increase the integrity of the EB-5 program through ensuring compliance for EB-5 industry players such as regional centers.
A further positive indicator that the speed of EB-5 application processing is becoming faster is based on statistics published by USCIS regarding the number of I-526 applications received and adjudicated from fiscal year 2018 to fiscal year 2023. The statistics show that during the first quarter of FY 2022, 189 I-526 petitions were received by USCIS and 61 I-526 petitions were adjudicated. Both numbers have increased in the first quarter of FY 2023 with 556 I-526 petitions received and 480 I-526 petitions adjudicated. Therefore, the statistics show that there has been a 194% year-over-year increase in the number of I-526 applications received and a 687% YOY increase in the number of I-526 petitions adjudicated. The statistics provide a positive sign that the adjudication of EB-5 applications is speeding up.
With the focus on hiring additional staff, EB-5 industry experts expect newly filed applications to be processed in around 24 months. If you have any questions regarding the EB-5 program and would like to know whether you and your family qualify, you may reach out to our team of U.S. licensed lawyers and professionals for more information and a complimentary initial consultation.