U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCSIS) released its latest data on EB-5 filings and Regional Centers (RCs) at its March 17, 2011, EB-5 Stakeholders Meeting held at the California Service Center. USCIS figures show a steep increase in the number of RC filings and EB-5 visa approvals in the first quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2011, which ran from October 1, 2010, to December 31, 2010.
The agency reported 116 initial RC proposal filings in the first quarter of FY 2011, compared to 110 initial filings in all of FY 2010. The number of amended RC proposal filings also increased in the first quarter to 24, an amount equal to 57 percent of the 42 filings received for all of FY 2010.
The agency also reported that it has issued a higher percentage of approvals of RC filings. In the first quarter of FY 2011, the agency approved 13 initial RC proposals and denied 4, an approval rate of 76 percent. This was a big increase from FY 2010, when USCIS approved 36 and denied 30, an approval rate of 55 percent. The approval rate of amended RC proposals in the first quarter also rose to 78 percent, with 7 approvals and 2 denials. By comparison, in FY 2010 USCIS approved 42 amended RC proposals and denied 11, an approval rate of 71 percent. However, at its current rate USCIS would only make a total of 36 final decisions on amended RC filings in FY 2011, while in FY 2010 it made 53 final decisions on amended filings. The rate of USCIS decisions on initial RC filings was essentially unchanged.
USCIS reported that the total number of approved Regional Centers (RCs) is now 125, located in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam.
USCIS also reported significant increases in individual I-526s (Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur) and I-829s (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions). In the first quarter of FY 2011, USCIS received 701 I-526 petitions and is on pace to receive about 2,800 in FY 2011, compared to 1,955 for FY 2010. The increase in the number of I-829 petitions was even more dramatic, with 531 received in the first quarter, a rate that should exceed 2,100 for FY 2011. By comparison, USCIS received 768 I-829 petitions in FY 2010.
However, USCIS also reported decreases in the percentage of approvals. In the first quarter of FY 2011, the agency approved 190 I-526 petitions and denied 56, an approval rate of 77 percent, while its approval rate for FY 2010 was 83 percent. Likewise, USCIS approved 75 percent of I-829 petitions in the first quarter (39 approvals and 13 denials), compared to an approval rate of 83 percent for FY 2010.
The total number of adjudications also declined. USCIS issued a total of 246 decisions on I-526 petitions in the first quarter of FY 2011, compared to 1,534 in FY 2010. The agency also issued only 52 decisions on I-829 petitions in the first quarter, down from 330 for all of FY 2010. USCIS said the decreases in the number of decisions may be attributed to the agency's recent focus on training additional adjudicators, which "kept many adjudicators from actually deciding cases" during the first quarter.
USCIS also reported that processing times currently exceed their targets for RC filings and I-526 filings. The target processing time for I-526 petitions is 5 months; USCIS reports that actual processing times are reaching 6 months, but some in the field say it is closer to 7 months. USCIS's target processing time for both initial and amended RC proposals is 4 months, but the agency reported current processing times of 7 months for initial RC filings and 5 months for amended filings. For I-829 filings, the agency reports that it is meeting its target processing time of 6 months.
USCIS also announced that it is on track to approve a record number of EB-5 visas. Its preliminary estimate is that 1,421 EB-5 visas were issued in the first quarter of 2011. At that rate the number of EB-5 visas would approach 6,000 for FY 2011, compared to 1,885 in FY 2010. The previous record was 4,218 EB-5 visas issued in FY 2009.
At the March 17 Stakeholders Meeting, USCIS also said that based on comments it has received, it is reviewing the "Material Change" concept raised in the December 11, 2009, Neufeld memo (http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/Static%20Files%20Memoranda/Adjudicating%20of%20EB-5_121109.pdf). The agency did not say when it would decide on any changes to the memo or whether any changes would be made.
USCIS noted that it is acceptable for an RC to pool investments for multiple investment vehicles within certain limits. However, the businesses to be financed must be identified at the time of filing the I-526 petition and the prospective job creation must be documented at that time.
A PowerPoint presentation and other information from the March 17 Stakeholders Meeting are available at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=68da76be729ce210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=994f81c52aa38210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD.