The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is famous among foreign nationals from all over the world as a direct route to a U.S. green card. However, it is also known for being a slow process that can take several years.
Having made a qualifying investment, an EB-5 investor must file Form I-526 with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the investor meets the criteria of the EB-5 investment program, USCIS will approve the I-526 petition, and the investor will be granted conditional U.S. residency for two years.
Then, EB-5 investors must request that the conditions on their residency status be removed through Form I-829. This petition allows USCIS to evaluate whether the EB-5 investment remained compliant with the program’s regulations and created the required number of jobs. If approved, the EB-5 investor and their family will qualify for permanent residency in the United States.
USCIS is notorious for its slow adjudication times for both I-526 and I-829 petitions, meaning that the process can take several years. EB-5 investors who have dependent children nearing the age limit for the EB-5 visa may want to complete the process before their children age out.
However, two changes that occurred to the program in 2021 may offset these delays and allow direct EB-5 investors to obtain their green cards faster.
Speeding up Processing Times for Form I-526
While backlogs of pending I-526 petitions have been a feature of the EB-5 program over the years, a significant change in June 2021 could lead to faster processing times. With the expiration of the regional center program, USCIS announced it would no longer process pending I-526 petitions from regional center investors.
As regional center projects were the most popular route for foreign nationals to make an EB-5 investment, this decision should free up a lot of USCIS resources, which could be refocused to processing petitions from direct EB-5 investors.
However, industry experts speculate that regional centers could be reauthorized as soon as the end of 2021, which could signal a return to slower processing times. Prospective investors looking to participate with a direct EB5 investment are recommended to use this opportunity before the situation changes.
Cutoff Dates Removed
In response to backlogs dating back to 2015, USCIS has implemented cutoff dates for Chinese applicants who have filed Form I-526. These cutoff dates cause delays for EB-5 investors, as they have to wait before applying for or obtaining their conditional green cards.
However, in the December 2021 Visa Bulletin it was announced that there would no longer be cutoff dates for direct EB-5 investors, regardless of their nationality. This means that all investors who make a direct EB-5 investment will be able to obtain their visas as soon as their petitions are approved. This is particularly good news for prospective EB-5 investors from China, as their applications have been subject to cutoff dates for six years.
However, if the regional center program is reauthorized, investors who choose that EB-5 investment route will be subject to cutoff dates as before.
Direct EB-5 projects and investors can benefit greatly from the expiration of the regional center program as well as the removal of cutoff dates. This combination of events, as well as the lowering of the minimum EB-5 investment amount to $500,000, makes it a very advantageous time for foreign nationals to make a direct investment. Interested foreign nationals are advised to act quickly to enjoy shorter processing times and a faster route to their U.S. green cards.