USCIS recently updated its online data for I-526 and I-829 Petitions to include Q3 of fiscal year 2017.
During Q3 (April through June), the Investor Program Office (IPO) significantly increased its processing of I-829 Petitions, outpacing the receipt of new petitions for the first time in years—and by a significant margin. This increase in processing volume is likely due to the recently announced formation of a specific division of adjudicators focused on I-829 Petitions.
I-526 Petitions, on the other hand, experienced reduced processing, resulting in the lowest number of adjudicated petitions this fiscal year. Fewer I-526 adjudications combined with a rise in I-526 filings means the total number of pending I-526 petitions yet again went up.
The increased number of I-526 Petitions filed during Q3 correlates with the historical pattern of increased filings just before the sunset date of the Regional Center Pilot Program. The legislative sunset date of the program has an obvious destabilizing impact on the market, creating uncertainty about whether the program will continue, and if so, what changes may be implemented by Congress. Drastic spikes in I-526 filings have occurred prior to each of the most recent five program extensions (Q4 FY2015, Q1 FY2016, Q4 FY2016, Q1 FY2017, and Q3 FY2017). These extreme increases to filings, often more than doubling the previous quarter’s filings, inundates IPO and serves only to expand an already massive backlog of pending EB-5 petitions.
The massive number of petitions filed in Q4 FY2015 and Q1 FY2016 in particular have caused adjudication times to grow—and as of the previous two IPO processing time reports, the office was still working through petitions with priority dates of November 22, 2015. Once IPO works through these two quarters, the office is expected to process the following two quarters much more quickly due to the drastically lower number of filings. They will, however, likely face another slowdown with two more back-to-back surges in I-526 filings during Q4 FY2016 and Q1 FY2017.