USCIS has issued the data for I-140 approvals for the full Fiscal Year 2023 that ended in September 2023. The agency publishes this data on a quarterly basis and it is a good way to follow trends on percentage approvals and denials, as well as absolute numbers of approvals and denials for the different categories of green cards. This dataset includes the approval rates for EB2 NIW (National Interest Waiver). In this article we will discuss data calculated from the official USCIS numbers.
EB2 NIW approval rates declined significantly throughout FY2023
The percentage of approvals for the EB-2 NIW category saw a decreasing path throughout the fiscal year 2023. Q1 saw the highest approval rate of 85%, but the last quarter saw only 72% of the cases approved by USCIS. The average approval rate for the year was 80%, very far from the whopping 96% from the previous year (FY2022). So, in 2023, the average denial rate for EB2 NIW was 20%. The graph below shows the percentage approval per quarter for EB2 NIW.
The EB2 NIW I-140 approvals also jumped
While the approval rates suffered a steep decrease, the opposite happened for the absolute numbers of approvals. The number of approvals jumped 3x with respect to Fiscal Year 2022. While “only” 10,316 I-140 were approved in the NIW category in 2022, an impressive 31,889 I-140 petitions passed the bar in 2023. It is also true that the number of denials grew 17.5 times in the same period, from 468 in Fiscal Year 2022 to 8,172 in Fiscal Year 2023. The graph below shows the total number of cases adjudicated per quarter (sum of approvals and denials).
Possible explanations for the lower approval rates of EB2 NIW petitions
More demand may be causing poorly prepared cases to be submitted
One of the hypothesis is directly related to the increased demand in the NIW category that we saw in the data presented above. More and more cases are being filed and it is not unreasonable to think that many of these cases are filed without proper preparation. The number of shady business that appeared in this space in different parts of the world increased paralell to the demand.
This has led to many cases of outright scams and so-called experts that are ill-prepared to put together a somewhat complex petition like the EB2 NIW package (some of them are consultants and some of them, unfortunately, lawyers). It is also true that many DIY petitioners may not be following the necessary steps to ensure a properly crafted petition. This is one of the main reasons I started this website and comprehensive resources for Do-It-Yourself petitioners like the EB2 NIW course.
New officers in USCIS since the end of the pandemic
It is also public and well documented that USCIS started to agresively hire after the pandemic receded. Some have pointed to issues being caused by improperly trained personnel at the immigration agency. Not so long ago, we reported on an opinion from famous immigration attorney Victoria Chen, in which she draw attention to inconsistencies in the NIW adjudication process and she related these problems to the surge in new officers.
Remember: the global approval rate is not your chance of success
It is important to understand that the numbers reported in this article are global statistics as published by USCIS. They are not your odds of getting a green card should you submit an I-140 petition. Remember that many factors go into play when it comes to your personal chances of success, including:
- Your professional profile
- Your proposed endeavor and its national importance
- How well your petition package is put together
- External factor: who is the USCIS officer that evaluates your case