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In Fiscal Year 2016, the USCIS received 14,573 EB-5 I-526 petitions. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, the decline in petitions from China-born investors resulted in only 6,424 I-526 filings (and only 1,338 in the last quarter of FY2018).
One EB-5 expert predicts that in 2019, I-526s will be decided in less than a year. Last year, USCIS decided 11,000 I-526s, leaving about 15,000 pending. If the rate of I-526 petitions filed remains as low as last fall of FY2018 and the decision rate remains the same, the backlog should be reduced and future processing of I-526s should speed up.
But it is not certain I-526s will be processed more quickly. USCIS may pull examiners off the I-526 line and have them work on the I-829 backlog (7,000+ applications), or take them off the EB-5 program all together and move them to other applications. Faster adjudications would be nice, but across the entire immigration system, applications are now slower than in the past and backlogs are increasing.
Moreover, if about 1,338 new I-526 petitions are filed per quarter, that equates to about 5,000 new I-526s filed per year. On average, there are three immigrants per petition. That is about 15,000 immigrants for 10,000 EB-5 visas annually. Thus, even with far fewer EB-5 petitions, the program needs more visa numbers.