Free EB-5 Evaluation

Form I-526E Petition Best Practices

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program enables foreign nationals to obtain permanent resident status through investment in U.S. commercial enterprises.

Through this program, individuals can pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations while paving the way to becoming a permanent resident.

One crucial step of the EB-5 journey is filing Form I-526E with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the I-526E petition process and what you need to do to ensure that yours is successful.

Download the Official USCIS I-526E Petition Form

View the USCIS Website Page on the I-526E Petition Form

Form I-526E Basics

Form I-526E—also known as an Immigrant Petition by a Regional Center Investor—is an important document that can be used as proof that a qualifying EB-5 investment was made. This form also demonstrates that the investment meets the requirements for two-year conditional residency.

The foreign investor submits Form I-526E to show compliance with the EB-5 program to USCIS. The investor’s I-526E petition must show that they have invested the required amount of capital in an eligible U.S. enterprise.

It can be done either directly or through a USCIS-approved EB-5 regional center. The enterprise will also have to create the necessary number of jobs.

What Is the Minimum EB-5 Investment?

The amount of capital required depends on the location of the project.

Projects located within an area of higher-than-average unemployment or low population, known as a targeted employment area (TEA), require a minimum capital investment of $800,000. Projects located anywhere else require a minimum capital investment of $1,050,000.

What Are the EB-5 Eligibility Requirements?

For a project to establish ongoing eligibility, it must be a new commercial enterprise (NCE) that creates at least 10 qualified job positions for each EB-5 investor.

These job positions must be full-time—at least 35 hours a week—and filled by U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or other authorized immigrant workers.

The investor’s petition must clearly show and provide traceable evidence that the invested funds came from a lawful source.

Form I-526 or I-526E?

Nearly all immigrant investors file Form I-526E.

This is because nearly all immigrant investors invest in an NCE through a USCIS-approved regional center. The regional center program is the most popular investment option in the industry.

On March 15th, 2022, Congress passed the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022. Among many welcome changes to speed up EB-5 processing, this act divides the immigrant petition into two forms:

  • Form I-526—the Immigrant Petition by a Standalone Investor—is for direct investors.
  • Form I-526E—the Immigrant Petition by a Regional Center Investor—is for immigrant investors who invest through the USCIS-approved regional center program.

Very few investors choose the direct investment route, as it comes with severe limitations, especially regarding what constitutes a job-creating entity.

These limitations may include:

  • Active management of the day-to-day operations.
  • More demanding job creation requirements.
  • Limited investor flexibility.

Not only are direct investments harder to manage, but the USCIS requirements can also be challenging to meet.

This is why most EB-5 investors choose to invest indirectly through a regional center.

A 2018 study found that 94% of all successful EB-5 visas were awarded to regional center investors—or those who file Form I-526E.

Who Submits Form I-526E to USCIS?

Immigration attorneys often prepare Form I-526E on behalf of EB-5 investors.

The I-526E petition is a complicated and vital step in the EB-5 visa process, and involves scores of supporting documentation specific to each investor and each NCE.

An immigration attorney is in the best position to ensure proper compliance with USCIS when filing an I-526E petition.

Accompanying documentation

For a regional center investor, the I-526E petition must be accompanied by documentation that demonstrates he or she has met all the criteria of the EB-5 program.

Evidence of investment

The petition and accompanying documents must show the investor has already invested or otherwise irrevocably committed his or her capital to the project.

It is important to present evidence for regional center investments, which include the following:

  • Bank statements.
  • Promissory notes.
  • Loan certificates.
  • Security agreements.
  • Escrow account records.
  • Other evidence that the necessary minimum investment amount of capital has been invested.

Evidence of lawfully-sourced funds

Furthermore, documentation must be provided with Form I-526E that shows the invested capital was obtained lawfully. Acceptable evidence includes:

  • Payment records of income used in the investment.
  • Bank account statements.
  • Seven years of tax returns.
  • Securities statements.

If the invested capital was borrowed or a gift, immigrant investors must submit evidence that the donor or lender obtained the funds legally and gifted them in good faith.

We recommend that the investor ask the person they received the money from, for lawful evidence to use—such as the documents the person used to make the investment.

It’s vital to obtain this documentation from the original donor to avoid claims of fraud and money laundering.

Evidence of NCE eligibility

In addition to the documentation related to the investment capital itself, the application must include documentation demonstrating the new commercial enterprise is eligible for the EB-5 program.

The application should include any of the following that is applicable to the individual:

  • State business certificates.
  • Articles of incorporation.
  • Merger or consolidation certificates.
  • Joint venture agreements.
  • Limited partnership agreements.

Evidence of job creation

The USCIS also requires evidence that the new commercial enterprise will create the necessary number of jobs. Appropriate evidence includes:

  • Comprehensive business plan, with
    • a hiring timetable.
    • And an economic report that credibly demonstrates through accepted methodologies that the employment requirement will be met.
  • Payroll records.
  • Employee tax forms, such as Form I-9.
  • Other hiring documentation, if employees are already hired.

Evidence of investor involvement

Lastly, Form I-526E must be accompanied by evidence that the investor will be involved with the daily management of the NEC. Accepted evidence includes:

  • Corporate documents.
  • A description of the investor’s responsibilities, for example in a limited liability company (e.g., a limited partner).

Filing Your Form I-526E Petition

Forms I-526 and I-526E are complex petitions to file, especially given the volume of supporting documentation required. Each application requires special consideration, which takes time.

Furthermore, USCIS processing times across all petitions have ballooned since the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, some immigrant investors receive the outcome of USCIS adjudication in a shorter period of time. This may be because of:

  • Priority processing for rural TEA project ivnestors.
  • Priority date availability.
  • Increased efficiency in USCIS processing.

Where to file your I-526E petition?

Usually, immigration attorneys compile and submit I-526E petitions on behalf of their clients.

An immigration attorney will send the immigrant investor’s petition to a USCIS Lockbox Facility for processing.

USCIS mailing addresses are subject to change.

Filing fees

The USCIS fee for filing Form I-526E is $3,675. This filing fee is nonrefundable, regardless of whether USCIS approves an investor’s petition.

The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 also requires regional center investors to send an additional, separate amount of $1,000.

This additional fee goes to the U.S. Treasury’s EB-5 Integrity Fund. The fund is aimed at helping the USCIS to settle more I-526E petitions and investigate more compliance issues with regional centers or investors.

An $85 biometrics services fee is also required.

The biometrics services fee is due at the time of filing for fingerprinting, background checks, photographs, etc.

Money orders or checks should be made payable to “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security”.

What happens upon approval?

Once an investor’s I-526E is approved, he or she can apply for permanent resident status.

Concurrent Filing for U.S. Residents

If an investor is already lawfully residing in the United States under a different status, the investor can file Form I-485 to adjust their visa status.

As of 2022, USCIS now allows for the simultaneous filing of Form I-526E and Form I-485.

This welcome change means that investors residing in the U.S. can eliminate an additional waiting period for petition adjudication by submitting both forms at the same time.

Doing so adjusts their immigration status to “pending”, allowing investors to apply for employment authorization and a travel permit.

Investors living abroad

After I-526E approval, applicants living abroad must file Form DS-260—or Immigrant Visa Electronic Application—in order to be permitted into the country as a conditional permanent resident.

This form is required for individuals who want to immigrate to the U.S. through family-based, employment-based, or diversity visa programs.

Delays and rejections

While many investors wait for about two years for adjudication of Form I-526E, further delays can happen. USCIS might also reject the application.

For instance, if a check for a filing fee is returned as unpayable twice, USCIS will reject an investor’s entire I-526E petition. The investor will also be charged a returned check fee.

Requests for evidence

If any information is missing or deemed inadequate, the USCIS will send a request for evidence (RFE), which will delay the approval of the petition.

An RFE is not an outright denial. But responding to one can require the professional help of an EB-5 consultant, such as one of the experts at EB5AN.

Common reasons for RFEs include:

  • Inaccurate financial projections.
  • Inconsistencies in the business plan.
  • Lack of third-party evidence demonstrating the feasibility of the project.
  • Lack of detail about the NCE’s business plan.
  • Lack of proof that the NCE has the potential to operate successfully, and that it can create and sustain the required 10 full-time jobs.

The response time for an RFE is typically between 30 and 90 days.

Petition inquiries

If an immigrant investor’s I-526E adjudication is taking longer than 93% of other petitions, USCIS allows investors to submit an inquiry with the Immigrant Investor Program Office.

Investors can always check the status of their individual I-526E petition on the USCIS website, as processing times can vary significantly.

Start Your EB-5 Journey to Secure Your Future in the U.S. Today

With the dual help of a dedicated EB-5 professional from EB5AN and a licensed immigration attorney, immigrant investors can help ensure that their I-526E petitions are reviewed and approved.

Although the process can seem daunting, the team at EB5AN has helped thousands of immigrant investors achieve their dream of living permanently in the United States.

Reach out to an EB-5 professional at EB5AN today to begin your family’s journey.