During the past couple of years many EB applicants have been anxiously watching the Pending I-485 Inventory, hoping that the number of cases ahead of them keep dropping with every release. For the most part, that was indeed the case. But the latest USCIS inventory (as of January 5, 2011) showed a sudden increase for some categories. Most notably, EB3 Worldwide.
Let’s look at the figure below, which is generated by our Green Card Tracker:
The ROW category (Rest of the World: all countries other than China, India, Mexico and the Philippines) had a total of 40,429 pending EB3 cases in the October, 2010 inventory. For January, 2011, however, the number had increased to 47,627. And it happened without a single new I-485 filed – because the visa bulletin hasn’t been current since August of 2007.
Now what caused the sudden increase of 7,198 ROW EB3 cases? It is a huge number. Moreover, since USCIS has been processing older cases during the same three-month period, the actual addition should be even higher.
One logical explanation is that USCIS recently added cases held at field offices to the inventories. But I’m having a hard time believing such a large amount. All along USCIS has been saying that only a small number of I-485 applications are pending at local offices, and as you can imagine, 7,198 (more than 15% of the total) is certainly not a “small number.” In fact as of today the USCIS FAQ still says:
…there is a small population of cases within the jurisdiction of the Field Offices that are not included in this report. (inventory).
Maybe USCIS under-estimated the total number of pending I-485 cases at field offices. Maybe they simply missed a stack of EB3 applications at service centers and just started counting them in the January inventory. I won’t be shocked either way. But I do wish USCIS would have offered an explanation of some sort, to account for such a large discrepancy in one of their most useful reports.