USCIS held a Listening Session on its new process for managing EB-5 visa petition inventory on March 13, 2020. Sarah Kendall, Chief of the Immigrant Investor Program Office, and Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division, both spoke. Here are the key takeaways from the session.
- Form I-526 Processing. Starting March 31, 2020, IPO will begin to prioritize the processing of Form I-526 petitions from investors who are chargeable to countries with visas that are immediately available or soon to be available, based on a monthly assessment of the “Chart B” Date for Filing listed in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin. Kendall rejected any suggestions of an “opt-in” approach and would not speculate how long this new method will last. She also indicated that investors born in backlogged countries who may be eligible for “cross-chargeability” should email IPO to submit the request to adjudicate and include the legal basis behind the cross-chargeability.
- EB-5 Visa Numbers. USCIS’ change will not affect the availability of EB-5 visa numbers. Oppenheim suggested there will be no change in how visa numbers are allocated in the next 12-18 months. Mr. Oppenheim did indicate that more visa numbers being used by non-backlogged countries (due to increased I-526 processing times) means less “leftovers” for those who have reached annual limit. He indicated there will likely be no change in how many visas each country will obtain until FY 2022, when mainland-China will have fewer numbers.
- Non-Backlogged Countries To See Faster Adjudications Starting March 31, 2020. USCIS heard “loud and clear” that EB-5 stakeholders are frustrated with EB-5 processing times but did not quantify how the new approach will affect them. Kendall mentioned that IPO has 240 staff including adjudicators, economists, and other supporting staffed and that it has been focusing on adjudicator training and integrity of the EB-5 program to reduce fraud. She also indicated that IPO has increased working with outside enforcement agencies, which likely slows down processing. Ms. Kendall did not clarify how the stated processing times on USCIS’ website will be impacted (or if there will be two processing times listed – one for backlogged countries, and one for countries with available visas). New data will be posted in the coming months. Ms. Kendall was proud that IPO’s customer service team has been responding to case inquiries within 9 days.
- Expedite Requests. Kendall indicated that IPO’s new approach will not impact the expedite process request, which will be handled under USCIS’ guidelines. She did mention in a response to a question that a 5-month waiting period for an expedite request should be brought to IPO’s attention.
- Form I-924As and Notice of Intent to Terminate. IPO will heavily monitor regional centers and take actions when not meeting the “terms and conditions” of a designation. In FY 2019, 100 regional centers filed to file an I-924A and were issued a Notice of Intent to Terminate (NOIT). Last year, 70 regional centers were terminated for failure to file an I-924A. Kendall indicated that a NOIT may be issued if the Form I-924A is incomplete or inconsistent with prior information submitted to USCIS, or if government-issued identification cards for all principals are not included.