June 2020 Visa Bulletin and 2019 EB-5 Processing Update – India Backlog Almost Eliminated!

Dear EB-5 Investor Families:

You are receiving this letter because you are either an EB-5 investor awaiting adjudication at USCIS, or you are considering proceeding with an EB-5 investment, and your country of “chargeability” under the EB-5 rules is India. We are pleased to be able to inform you that according to the most recent Visa Bulletin from USCIS, the backlog for Indian nationals in the EB-5 program is almost eliminated! As you can see from Exhibit 1 below, all Indian nationals who have a notice of action date on their I-797c receipt from January 1, 2020 or earlier should have a visa available to them at the U.S. Consulate upon the approval of their I-526 petition. This is great news, as most “experts” were projecting backlogs of visa availability for years for any applicants of Indian nationality.

Exhibit 1: June 2020 Visa Bulletin

 

For comparison, you can view the visa bulletin from April below, which represents a twelve month jump in availability over only two months of visa bulletins from USCIS:

Exhibit 2: April 2020 Visa Bulletin

 

There is no published reason for the massive jump in visa availability, but it is important to understand that previous projections depend on an assumption on the number of dependents attached to each petition that is submitted to USCIS. If an investor submits an I-526 petition for themselves and their spouse, then that only counts as two visas towards any country’s annual allotment of roughly 700 EB-5 visas. However, it seems that previous projections assumed an average of over 4 or 5 dependents per I-526 petition, and that was apparently not the case. While anyone outside of USCIS can only guess as to the real reasoning for the jump from January of 2019 to January of 2020 for EB-5 visa availability for Indian nationals, it will come as welcome news to anyone who applied for the EB-5 program from that time.

We will continue to monitor these timelines and trends, as data released by USCIS has occasionally clashed with information shared in the EB-5 marketplace. For example, USCIS’s fiscal year 2019 report showed that 503 EB-5 visas were issued to applicants from India, but rumors have suggested that recent submissions by Indian nationals comprised approximately 45% of all EB-5 petitions in 2019. While it is possible that both data points are true, we will continue to share the most up-to-date findings we can as they are verified or released from USCIS.

Fiscal Year 2019 Data

Exhibit 3: Number of I-526 Immigrant Petitions Submitted as of December 31, 2019

 

In addition to the visa bulletin that was published earlier this week, the fiscal year data for 2019 was also published from USCIS. Please pay attention to the highlighted portions in Exhibit 3 for a couple key points to be mindful of as you proceed in your EB-5 timeline.

  • Only 4,194 petitions were submitted in the fiscal year 2019, which ran from October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019. This represents a steep drop off from EB-5’s peak only two to three years earlier. As more petitions are received and await adjudication, timelines for processing I-526 petitions can increase. However, USCIS has increased its staffing of adjudicators for I-526 petitions by over 400%, so processing timeframes should decrease.
  • Of the 4,673 I-526 petitions adjudicated in 2019, 21.7% of them were initially denied by USCIS. This is the highest rate of denial on record and something all families should be aware of as they await adjudication. The increase in Requests for Further Evidence (“RFEs”) and Notices of Intent to Deny (“NOIDs”) may result from one of the following scenarios. As processing timelines have grown in the recent 12 – 24 months, USCIS has resorted to issuing RFEs and NOIDs with minimal petition reviews in order to meet their adjudication quotas. As a result of this action, our trusted immigration attorneys are informing us that, although they are not experiencing these kinds of results in their own law firms, all EB-5 applicants need to be prepared to respond to an initially unfavorable adjudication from USCIS. If you receive either an RFE or NOID, please let your attorney and us know as soon as possible, so that we can make sure you have the very best team around you to get you through that process.
  • It is important to note that an RFE or NOID is simply a formal response from USCIS regarding your petition that requires a response to address any concerns that the adjudicator had with your petition, no matter how legitimate or unnecessary they may seem. If you receive an RFE or NOID, our office will immediately coordinate with you and your immigration attorney to formulate whatever response is necessary as timely as possible. However, it is important to note that most cases require your cooperation and attention to assist us and your immigration attorney to properly satisfy the concerns laid out by the adjudicator. As of the publication date of this letter, our offices have yet to have an EB-5 investor denied their I-526 or I-829 petition, but we cannot maintain this level of excellence alone. Any response to USCIS is a team effort between you, your immigration attorney and our team. One aspect of maintaining that level of connection is monitoring your EB-5 Horizon portal for updates and informing us of any changes with your personal information or living arrangements.
  • In the yellow highlighted window of Exhibit 3, you will see that only 455 I-526 petitions were adjudicated in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020. This slowdown in adjudications has no explanation, but we will continue to monitor these trends as they are released by USCIS.

A Note From CTP President and CEO

To our Extended Family of EB-5 investors:

We know that many of you will have questions upon reviewing this information, and we want you to know that our phones are open “24/7”. Please let us know how we can help you, and do not forget to reach out to your immigration attorneys for guidance and assistance as well. They work for you for a reason, so use them when possible to clarify certain aspects of the immigration process. While none of us, the attorneys or the regional center, can tell you how long you will have to wait for your petition to be approved, we are all working together to provide you with the resources and information we have available to give you the best chance at planning your next steps in these uncertain times. Please stay safe and healthy, and we look forward to working with you in greater depth in the months ahead. As always, we hope to be able to all get together on your next visit to the United States of America. May God continue to bless each and every one of you and keep your families safe wherever you are right now.

Sincerely,

Kirk D. Eicholtz

President and CEO