Kraft Selected to Provide Commentary
Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - What did we learn during the presentation from Sarah M. Kendall, Chief of the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at the IIUSA Virtual Forum?
Beginning in Mid-March 2020 USCIS maximized telework, as the majority of the nation did, and still remains at almost 100% work from home. Some of that framework was already built out as the agency did already allow for some telework, but the agency has had to overcome challenges with this arrangement. There are currently 232 dedicated support staff, adjudicators, economists, FDNS, compliance officers, and others.
The Chief also confirmed that there are 2 “workflow” prerequisites for adjudicating an I-526. The first is visa availability. This prioritizes the petitions of individuals from countries where visas are currently available. The second is project approval. IPO will only adjudicate the petitioner’s individualized eligibility criteria once the project is approved. Kendal addressed the big question that is on the minds of many investors and stakeholders, as processing times reach all-time highs. How many cases is USCIS adjudicating per month? It looks like despite COVID19, productivity has improved on both forms I-526 and I-829 over 2019. However, while I-829 processing surpass 2018 levels, there is still much growth needed on processing of form I-526 to regain traction to 2018 levels.
Average I-526 Adjudications per month
Average I-829 Adjudications per month
The number of Regional Centers is shrinking with 105 Regional Centers failing to file I-924a in FY2019. According to the USCIS website, since the inception of the program over 500 Regional Centers have been terminated for failure to file I-924a/submit other required information or no longer serving the purpose of promoting economic growth.
Why are dependents not receiving biometrics notices with the principal applicant? In March when Application Support Centers (ASC) temporarily suspended in-person services to slow the spread of the corona virus, they shut off the systems which automatically schedule the biometrics appointments. When services resumed, the system began scheduling biometrics appointments but only principal applicants were being scheduled. USCIS is aware of the issue and is working to resume scheduling Principal Applicants with their dependents.
Looking to the Future
As USCIS looks to avert budget shortfalls that could result in furloughs, the agency has looked to spending cuts and increases in premium processing fees. Could this mean plans to add premium processing on I-526 petitions? Unfortunately, according to Kendall, there are no plans to implement premium processing for I-526.
According to the USCIS website, current processing times for Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status (I-829) at Immigrant Investor Program Office are estimated at a median of 36.5 months, however I-829 receipt notices only evidence status for 18 months at which time you must apply for an I-551 stamp. Stakeholders asked if there are any plans to extend the expiration date on the notices to match processing times. Unfortunately, according to Kendall, there are no plans to extend the expiration date on the I-829 receipt notice.
Below is a link to watch the engagement!
Kraft Selected to Provide Commentary
In a follow-up panel entitled “Assuring USCIS Priorities: EB-5 Expert Analysis” Bob Kraft, President of IIUSA and Chairman and CEO of FirstPathway Partners joined former USCIS insiders León Rodríguez Director (2014-2017) and Robert Divine Chief Counsel (2004-2006) and Acting Director (2005-2006) to provide stakeholders with live commentary and EB-5 industry perspective on the updates from USCIS. Sign-up for the IIUSA Virtual Forum to watch the replay.