The EB-5 immigrant investor program is a visa category for foreign nationals who are willing to invest a substantial amount in the U.S. Annually, around 10,000 EB-5 visas are allocated to foreign investors and their qualifying immediate family members. It is one of the most sought-after immigrant visas for those who have the ability to invest the required $1 million or $500,000 into the U.S. economy.
However, the program involves different stages that prospective applicants must be aware of before applying. We will give you a breakdown of each step you need to take to become a lawful U.S. permanent resident through the EB-5 investor program.
Step 1: Consult an Immigration Attorney for EB-5 Visa Process
The EB-5 visa application is a long process that may take a significant amount of time to complete, a journey worth traveling having an expert by your side so that you can avoid pitfalls and delays that easily trip up applicants. It is common for people to think that all you need to do is raise the investment amount of $500,000 or $1 million and everything else will fall in place.
There are several other factors that require your attention throughout the EB-5 process. It can be very confusing for those that are not proficient in immigration law, and a single mistake could lead to months or years of delay for your EB-5 goals. Apart from the requirements for the investment amount, locating the right EB-5 project, filing the required supporting evidence accordingly, paying of the necessary administrative fees, and drawing a comprehensive business plan, are just a few of several steps that still lie ahead of you.
This is why you need an immigration lawyer to begin the process. You will be advised on the right project to invest in, the accepted source of funds, the USCIS definition of EB-5 capital, and the nature of your investment. And most importantly, a lawyer will help you file your application appropriately at the initial stage to avoid denial, delay, or rejection when the process eventually begins.
Step 2: Finding an EB-5 Project
The next step in your EB-5 visa process is for you to find an appropriate business project to invest your money in. An EB-5 business may be either a new commercial enterprise or a regional center project. As an applicant, you may choose to be an individual investor by setting up a new business enterprise or acquiring an already existing business or franchise. This will put you in a position to own and run the company as an active owner.
You may also choose to invest your money in an initiative created by the government called the Regional Pilot Center Program. This means you are going to be a passive investor in any of the regional center investments of your choice. An EB-5 regional center is a government-approved private or public economic unit set up to improve regional commercial productivity and job creation. Your lawyer can help you locate the one that best suits your investment plan.
Step 3: Formulate Your EB-5 Business Plan
Your business plan is going to play a crucial role in convincing the USCIS officials of your commitment and readiness. It is going to be part of the supporting evidence to file in your EB-5 application. To ensure that the business plan meets the USCIS requirements, it is advisable to engage an expert business writer who will help you highlight the key features of your project, such as the exact investment amount, the nature of the business, the number of U.S. citizens the business going to employ, and when it is going to commence business activities.
Step 4: EB-5 Capital Investment and I-526 Petition
Having chosen the project to invest in and having drawn up your business plan, the next step is to invest the required capital. Your investment amount depends on the project you have chosen. $500,000 in a project situated in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), or $1 million in a non-TEA investment.
EB-5 investment capitals are often paid into an escrow account at the initial stage. After that is done, your immigration attorney will file an I-526 petition with the USCIS. The petition must include proof of your investment and other documentation showing that the project you have invested in meets the government requirements of the EB-5 investor visa program.
Some of the documents to file include a well-detailed business plan and proof of a legitimate source of funding. You must also be able to demonstrate that the investment will lead to the creation of at least 10 full-time U.S jobs. During the application process, the USCIS may request additional information. If you receive Request for Evidence (RFE) along the line, you will need to respond by providing the requested information as soon as you get the message to avoid further delay.
All things being equal, you should be informed within 6 months if your application has been accepted or denied. If your petition is approved, you will move to the next stage of the application process.
Most regional centers usually work towards ensuring that applicants who invest in their centers get their petitions approved. However, in the event that your I-526 is denied, your investment capital is going to be refunded. The refund process and other investment guidelines may vary among different regional centers, ensure that your immigration lawyer clarifies every grey area you might come across in the terms and conditions.
Additionally, the USCIS requires that investors to put their “capital at risk”, which means you have already irrevocably invested it or in the process of doing so. Your application will be thoroughly looked into to ensure this at-risk definition is met. If it is discovered that you are shielding your capital from risk or you haven’t yet invested it, your application will likely not be approved.
EB-5 Capital at Risk Requirements
Capital already put at risk is proven with documents showing the full amount made available for the investment. You must indicate the evidence that the money was invested into a new commercial enterprise (NCE) and was subsequently made available to a job-creating enterprise (JCE) for the actual commencement of the business activity. Without this, you cannot convince the USCIS that the funds will be used for the business enterprise and create employment.
Examples of evidence to present include bank statements, business licenses, business insurance documents, contracts, invoices, bills of lading, receipts of transactions, purchase orders, and advertisements.
Step 5: Apply for a Two Year Conditional Green Card
Once your I-526 petition has been approved, the next step is to file for permanent residency to become a conditional U.S. resident. A conditional green card is issued with a two-year validity period. You are expected to implement the project and hire the required number of employees within the two years of your conditional status. Obtaining conditional green card status depends on your location.
- If you are already in the U.S., you will need to file an I-485, Application to Adjust Status.
- If you are filing outside the U.S, you will need to submit a DS-260 application at the U.S.embassy or consulate in your home country.
Step 6: Removal of Conditions on EB-5 Investor Green Card
This is the final stage of your EB-5 visa process, which is for you to become an unconditional green card holder in the U.S. To do this, you will file and submit an I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. This petition must be filed and submitted 90 days before the expiration of your two-year conditional resident status.
The purpose of this application is to prove that you have met all of the requirements of the EB-5 program in terms of investing in an approved EB-5 enterprise and that you have employed the required number of people. To prove this, some of the documents to present include the federal income taxes, balance sheets, and income statements of the business enterprise.
The I-829 is an eleven-page document with four sections which contains basic information about you, information about your spouse, and information about your children. The I-829 may take up to six months to be processed by the USCIS. If your petition is approved, you will get your unconditional permanent green card with a ten-year validity period.
The unconditional resident status will pave the way for your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to work and live permanently in the U.S. You and your immediate family members will also have the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship five years after you have received your green card. If you are not interested in becoming a citizen, you may renew your green card and continue on a permanent resident status after the ten-year validity period.
EB-5 Application Denial
Your application may be denied for different reasons. Some of the common errors that may lead to EB-5 green card denial include missing or inaccurate information, wrongful filing of the required fees, failure to provide a well-detailed business plan, using an unaccepted source of investment funds, and not putting capital at risk.
Due to the backlog of EB-5 applications usually received by USCIS, any of these mistakes could prolong your priority date for more several months or even years. It could even lead to rejection. You will need to fill in every piece information in your application and ensure all the required supporting evidence is made available.
However, if you have received a denial notice from USCIS, this may not necessarily be the end of the process. There are other options you may want to explore to resolve the case. Your immigration lawyer will be in the best position to guide you on the most appropriate steps to take.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
As you can see through these steps, the EB-5 visa process is a long and complicated, requiring the services of an experienced lawyer. At Immi-USA, we have a team of experts immigration attorneys who have helped countless investors through the EB-5 visa process. We will help you through each of the steps involved to obtain this coveted green card. To get started on your EB-5 the right way, you can get in touch with our immigration attorneys by filling out this consultation form today.