Anyone who wishes to immigrate to the United States by making an EB-5 investment under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program must set the process in motion by filing Form I-526 with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The program is fairly straightforward, offering foreign investors U.S. permanent resident status in exchange for a qualifying EB5 investment that fulfills certain requirements, including a minimum required investment amount and the creation of at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
After conducting careful due diligence to select the most suitable project and EB-5 regional center, an investor should transfer their EB-5 investment capital to the designated escrow or project account and file an I-526 petition with USCIS to obtain their U.S. conditional permanent resident status. Upon I-526 approval, the foreign investor may submit an application for a green card.
How Long Does It Take to Prepare an I-526 Petition?
Every EB5 investment is different, and consequently, every I-526 petition requires different documentation and information. Preparing an I-526 petition can be a lengthy process, taking weeks or months, depending on an investor’s circumstances, so starting early could be a wise decision.
The informational part of the I-526 petition is generally straightforward—investors must input personal information about themselves and any accompanying family members as well as information about their investment and the EB-5 project. The time-consuming portion is the document-gathering phase, which, depending on the EB-5 investment, can be a highly involved process.
Necessary documentation includes identifying documents for the investor and any accompanying family members, as well as proof that the EB5 investment capital was transferred to the project or a designated escrow account. While most investors have no problem presenting these papers, the lawful-source-of-funds requirement represents a much more challenging task. All EB-5 investors must prove that their investment capital was derived from lawful sources, whether from employment or a business, loans, the sale of assets, inheritance, or even a gift from relatives. Depending on the source, these documents may be difficult to gather, which is why EB-5 investors are advised to consult an experienced EB-5 immigration lawyer to determine the best sources of funds to use.
Finally, if any of the documents an investor encloses with their I-526 application are not in English, they must provide certified translations as well.
What Else Can Delay the Preparation of an I-526 Petition?
Lengthy document preparation isn’t the only thing that can derail the progression of an I-526 petition. To begin with, even if an investor is eager to relocate to the United States as quickly as possible, it’s crucial to take the time to conduct careful due diligence on any prospective EB-5 project and regional center to ensure it’s operated by seasoned professionals and can satisfy the investor’s objectives. An investor should read the project documentation carefully to understand the terms and conditions of their EB5 investment as well as their position and responsibilities in the new commercial enterprise (NCE).
If the project is in a targeted employment area (TEA)—and EB-5 projects affiliated with regional centers usually are—the investor must submit additional documentation justifying the TEA designation of the area. TEA projects are eligible for a lower minimum required investment amount: $900,000 instead of the regular $1.8 million. Whether the investor is working with a high-unemployment or rural TEA, they must provide USCIS-accepted documentation for their $900,000 EB-5 investment to be approved.
Finally, delays can occur even after I-526 submission—in fact, they may even be likely. USCIS is notoriously slow at processing EB-5 applications, leaving investors to wait for two to even five or six years, depending on their country of citizenship. No matter how quickly an investor completes and submits their I-526 petition, they may still face substantial processing delays.
Hire an Immigration Attorney and Start Early
The best course of action for EB-5 investors is to hire a reliable EB-5 immigration lawyer to guide them in their I-526 preparation process. An immigration attorney can not only help an investor select a suitable EB-5 project and conduct meticulous due diligence but also guide them through the I-526 preparation procedures, including identifying the easiest sources of funds to provide. Starting early will minimize delays and help EB-5 investors secure their new life in the United States that much faster.