USCIS has released its third quarter performance data for the fiscal year 2016 (October through September), including performance data on I-526 Petitions and I-829 Petitions. USCIS reports generally provide summary data on the number of applications or petitions received, approved, denied and pending.
For the third quarter of 2016 (April through June), USCIS approved 1,660 I-526 Petitions and denied 433 I-526 Petitions. This corresponds to a 79 percent approval rate in the third quarter. For the fiscal year 2016 through June, USCIS approved 4,781 I-526 Petitions and denied 1,442 I-526 Petitions. This corresponds to an I-526 Petition denial rate of approximately 30 percent, the highest denial rate the EB-5 program has ever seen. For example, the overall denial rate of I-526 Petitions was just 12 percent in fiscal year 2015.
One reason for this increased denial rate is no doubt the USCIS change in policy when adjudicating an investor’s source of funds originating from a loan. In 2015 and throughout 2016, USCIS has consistently denied I-526 Petitions where the investor’s source of funds originated from a loan that was not fully secured by the investor’s own personal property. Additionally, USCIS has been reaching further back in time when sending requests for evidence on an investor’s source of funds, sometimes requiring investors to provide employment and asset information for some 20-30 years. This change in policy and increased scrutiny on source of funds probably has contributed to the increased I-526 Petition denial rate, highlighting the need for investors to work with qualified and experienced attorneys throughout this process.
USCIS also released the performance data on I-829 Petitions. For the third quarter of 2016, USCIS approved 306 I-829 Petitions and denied 74 I-829 Petitions, corresponding to a 24 percent denial rate. For the fiscal year 2016 through June, USCIS approved 1,539 I-829 Petitions and denied 96 I-829 Petitions. This corresponds to an I-829 denial rate of approximately 6 percent for the fiscal year 2016 thus far. However, there was a notable increase in the amount of I-829 Petition denials throughout the third quarter of 2016.
Finally, as of June 2016, there are 19,406 I-526 Petitions pending at USCIS and there are 5,522 I-829 Petitions pending at USCIS. The amount of pending petitions relative to the number of petitions actually being adjudicated at USCIS has contributed to long processing times and visa backlogs. However, USCIS Immigrant Investor Program Office Director Nicholas Colucci stated during recent stakeholders meetings that USCIS has hired a large staff to tackle the backlog.
Greenberg Traurig will continue to monitor these performance statistics in Q4, which should provide good insight into the overall adjudication of EB-5 petitions for the entire fiscal year 2016.