The U.S. EB-5 investor immigration program provides an opportunity for foreign investors and their families to obtain permanent residency in the United States by investing in job-creating projects through a regional center program. Recently this program has gained a bit more prominence because there are some new ways investors can speed up the processing of their applications to get approved for green cards much faster than before. One of the best ways of expediting an application is to focus on rural projects. The flow chart above sets out a visual presentation of the process.
Here’s a step-by-step verbal guide outlining the process from an investor’s perspective:
Step 1: Choosing a Good EB-5 Regional Center Project
Investors begin by selecting an approved regional center to invest in. Regional centers are vetted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and are responsible for creating jobs in targeted areas through investments. There are some 600 regional centers to choose from. However, one of the best types of projects to look for are rural projects that are entitled to priority processing. Rural projects are generally regarded as those located in places with less than 20,000 residents. So the first step is to choose such a project. Not all regional centers are equal – investors need to use due diligence to minimize risk and follow the advice of their financial advisors in this regard.
Step 2: Investment: Having chosen a project, the investor then makes the required capital investment in the chosen regional center project. The minimum EB-5 investment is typically $1,o50,000, but if the project is located in a targeted employment area (TEA), the minimum investment is reduced to $800,000. According to the EB-5 legislation passed in March of 2022, TEAs that include regional center rural projects, infrastructure projects and projects in areas with high unemployment rates are entitled to priority processing because the federal government considers them important. We have chosen to look at rural projects here because, comparatively speaking, it is the best of the three. Although the demand is lower, only a small number of rural projects qualify and the supply of designated visas is generous. Conversely, high-unemployment TEA projects are the most prevalent so the 10% of visas reserved for this category are likely to be depleted first. The group of infrastructure projects is a relatively new and obscure category because of a lack of clarity as to what is required to qualify for such a project.
Step 3: File I-526E Petition: With the investment, the investor files the I-526E petition, providing details about the investment and its job creation potential. Due to the priority processing for rural projects, this petition can be processed quickly. There are no published expected processing times for USCIS approval of such projects to date. However, based on early anecdotal evidence of approvals so far, they can be approved as quickly as in one year.
Step 4: Conditional Residency (I-485 Adjustment of Status) and Concurrent Filing: Investors can now also file their I-485 Adjustment of Status application concurrently with the I-526E petition’s approval. This allows them to apply for adjustment of status inside the USA while the I-526E immigrant petition is being processed. To be eligible, the investor must have come into the country on another legitimate status, such as for example L-1 visa status, H1-B visa status, F-1 visa status, or say O-1 visa status. Once inside the USA, the adjustment can be made.
Step 5: Work Authorization and Travel Documents: Concurrently, investors can also apply for employment authorization (Form I-765) and a travel document (Form I-131). These applications are processed within about, say, 8 months. Again, this is projected time and can vary. Once the approval of these applications is granted, however, effectively this makes it possible for the investor immigrant to live in the United States normally while everything else is processed in due course. This is a particularly valuable improvement in the EB-5 program for foreign investors seeking to settle in the USA since no long waiting period while the green card application is being processed is now necessary. The employment authorization and travel document cut the wait time to effectively living long-term in America for immigrant investors from several years down to say around 8 months.
Step 6: Approval and Conditional Green Card
Upon approval of the I-526E petition and I-485 Adjustment of Status application, investors are granted conditional permanent residency status. This conditional green card is valid for two years and allows them and their immediate family members to live, work, and study in the United States. It essentially solidifies the work/travel status obtained earlier into a semi-permanent status for two years. For those investors who apply from outside the U.S. this opens the door for them to apply at a U.S. consulate abroad to enter into America.
Step 7: Remove Conditions (I-829 Petition) Two-Year Requirement: Now inside the USA with conditional green card status, approximately two years before the conditional green card’s expiration, investors can file the I-829 petition to remove the conditions on their green card. The investor must demonstrate that their investment has led to the creation of at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers. Also, the investment must still be in the project. This verification is crucial for the removal of conditions.
Step 8: Permanent Residency
Upon approval of the I-829 petition, the conditions on the green card are removed. The investor and their family members now hold permanent green cards, granting them permanent residency in the United States.
Navigating the EB-5 investor immigration program’s regional center pathway involves strategic investment, meticulous paperwork, and adherence to USCIS guidelines. But this article’s emphasis on rural projects, concurrent filing of applications, and priority processing hopefully will help to streamline the journey towards U.S. permanent residency for foreign investors and their families. For Chinese and Indian investors in particular, this rural approach is an extraordinary proposal. That is because rural projects are “current” in regard to processing and a “priority” as a set aside. This enables these investors to skip to the front of the processing line from an otherwise backlog of some 10 years plus. While the projected times in the flow chart above may reflect a best case scenario in terms of timing and may take longer, still no matter how you look at it, rural EB-5 regional center projects present foreign investors great opportunities at the moment to quickly get green cards to live permanently in the United States.