Throughout 2020, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program faced its fair share of hardships. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) faced major financial troubles and barely avoided a massive furlough, the temporary closures of U.S. embassies and consulates left many EB-5 investors unable to receive their EB-5 visas, and I-526 petition processing volume was devastatingly low throughout FY2020. These challenges have left many EB-5 investment participants frustrated and even led some foreign nationals to opt for investment programs in countries like Canada and Australia rather than seeking U.S. permanent resident status.
Fortunately, FY2020 was not bad for everyone involved with an EB5 investment. Those filing I-829 petitions in FY2020 saw positive I-829 adjudication rates and approval rates, which allowed those with a successful EB-5 investment to receive unconditional permanent resident status in the United States despite the hectic and unpredictable state of 2020.
High I-829 Adjudication and Approval Rates for the Beginning of FY2020
In FY2020, I-526 petition processing was disturbingly low, continuing the unfortunate trend that started when Sarah Kendall took over as chief of the Immigrant Investors Program Office (IPO). Nonetheless, I-829 adjudication volumes saw a significant increase—in FY2020, a total of 1,229 I-829 petitions were processed, and FY2020 had the third-highest I-829 processing volume in its first two quarters since FY2012. This data demonstrates a 62% increase in I-829 processing from FY2019. Additionally, there was a 95% I-829 approval rating throughout the first two quarters of FY2020.
While this is all great news for I-829 petitioners, the data for the last two quarters of FY2020 is still unknown. It is possible that I-829 adjudication in the second half of FY2020 will be affected by USCIS’s redeployment policy update, published in July 2020. As a result, it is possible that the 95% approval rate seen in the first two quarters of FY2020 will begin to drop in the latter two quarters.
Changes to I-829 Estimated Processing Time Ranges Throughout FY2020
While it is clear that the IPO chose to prioritize I-829 petitions over I-526 petition in FY2020, that does not necessarily mean that I-829 petitions are being processed any quicker. In fact, throughout 2020, the estimated processing time range for I-829 petitions increased from 21–45.5 months in January to 35–56 months in October. When the processing data is released for the last two quarters of FY2020, it will be much easier to determine how USCIS’s changes to the redeployment policy have affected I-829 processing. As of January 2021, it is still unclear whether I-829 petition processing volume will continue to improve or go down a similar route to I-526 petition processing and begin falling.