The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program enables foreign nationals to obtain permanent resident status through investment in U.S. commercial enterprises. In order for an investor to begin the EB-5 process, he or she must file Form I-526 with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Form I-526 Basics
Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, is submitted to USCIS by the foreign investor and must demonstrate compliance with the EB-5 Program. The investor’s I-526 Petition must show that the applicant has invested the appropriate amount of capital in an eligible U.S. enterprise, either directly or through a USCIS-approved EB-5 regional center, and that the enterprise will create the necessary number of jobs.
The amount of capital required depends on the location of the project. Projects located within areas of higher-than-average unemployment or low population, known as targeted employment areas (TEAs), require a minimum investment of $500,000. Projects located anywhere else require a minimum investment of $1,000,000. The investor’s petition must also clearly demonstrate that the invested funds came from a lawful source.
For a project to be eligible, it must be a new commercial enterprise that creates at least 10 qualified job positions for each EB-5 investor. These job positions must be full time (at least 35 hours) and filled by U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or other authorized workers.
The applicant’s I-526 Petition must also demonstrate the foreign investor is sufficiently engaged in the day-to-day management of the new commercial enterprise.
Form I-526 is often prepared by immigration attorneys on behalf of EB-5 investors.
The investor’s I-526 Petition must be accompanied by documentation that demonstrates the investor has met all the criteria of the EB-5 Program.
The petition and accompanying documents must show the investor has already invested or otherwise irrevocably committed his or her capital to the project. Necessary evidence may include bank statements, promissory notes, loan certificates, security agreements, and/or other evidence that the necessary amount of capital has been invested.
Furthermore, documentation must be provided with Form I-526 that shows the invested capital was obtained lawfully. Acceptable evidence includes pay stubs from income used in the investment, bank account statements, five years of tax returns, and/or securities statements.
In addition to the documentation related to the investment capital itself, the application must include documentation that demonstrates the new commercial enterprise is eligible for the EB-5 Program. To this end, the application should include any state business certificates, articles of incorporation, merger or consolidation certificates, joint venture agreements, and/or limited partnership agreements.
USCIS also requires evidence that the new commercial enterprise will create the necessary number of jobs. Appropriate evidence includes a comprehensive business plan with hiring timetable and an economic report that credibly demonstrates through accepted methodologies that the employment requirement will be met.
Finally, Form I-526 must be accompanied by evidence that the investor will be sufficiently engaged with the daily management of the new commercial enterprise. Accepted evidence includes corporate documents as well as a description of the investor’s responsibilities.
Filing Form I-526
Usually, immigration attorneys compile and submit I-526 Petitions on behalf of their clients. The USCIS fee for filing Form I-526 is $1,500.
The petition is sent to the USCIS California Service Center for processing. If any information is missing or inadequate, USCIS will send a request for evidence (RFE), which will delay the approval of the petition. The average processing time for Form I-526 is around 14 months.
Once an investor’s I-526 is approved, he or she can apply for permanent resident status. If already in the U.S. under a different status, the investor will file Form I-485 to adjust his or her status. Applicants living abroad must file Form DS-230.