While you are not required to hire an EB-5 lawyer to guide you through the EB-5 visa process, it is certainly advisable. When you are committing to an EB-5 project with the hope of receiving a Green Card for yourself, your spouse, and unmarried minor children, trying to save money by tackling this complicated process on your own makes little sense. While you could hire a lawyer who does not specialize in EB-5 visas for the task, that may also prove unwise. Just as you would not expect your regular doctor to perform a specialized surgery on you, it is unwise to use an attorney with expertise in another area of law to help you obtain an EB-5 visa.
Perhaps there are some people who have successfully filed an EB-5 petition on their own, but if they exist, they are few and far between. Needless to say, there are plenty of people who attempted to self-petition, with the result that they did not receive an EB-5 visa. Maybe they learned it was not worth saving a few dollars on legal fees for such an important matter, and later received an EB-5 visa after hiring an attorney. The fees for an EB-5 lawyer are just a small fraction of the cost of an EB-5 investment, and these fees should ensure the application is done right. The bottom line is that Do-It-Yourselfers wasted a great deal of time, and likely a fair amount of money, because they did not have legal counsel.
Perhaps some potential EB-5 investors look at the application, the I-526 “Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur” which is only a few pages long and think this is something they can handle on their own without the need for an EB-5 lawyer. While it is true that the application is relatively brief, it is still complicated. It is not enough just to answer the questions–it is vital to answer the questions in a way that complies with EB-5 regulations.
One error can doom the application, and it is likely that a layperson filing it out on their own will make more than one mistake. Keep in mind that the application is just the beginning of what is a complex process, so even if you do fill out this paperwork properly, there is much more to it.
The application requires a great deal of supporting documentation, and this is where an EB-5 lawyer’s help is essential. An EB-5 attorney reviews all the documentation and determines whether it is EB-5 compliant, as per the current regulations. Such documentation for the I-526 petition includes:
- Cover letter outlining the investment project
- Source of funds and evidence they were lawfully obtained
- Business plan
- How the requisite number of jobs are created
- Project documentation for the designated Regional Center
- Previous five years of tax returns
- Previous five years of bank statements
- Other capital sources
- Business ownership proof
- Copies of business licenses
You must also submit personal documentation, including:
- Form I-94, arrival/departure record
- Copies of your and family members’ passports
- Household registration
- Health status
- Explanation of why you are unlikely to become a public charge
- Copy of any previous immigration applications
- Certified copies of any judgment, pending governmental civil or criminal actions, or private civil actions against you from any court in or outside the U.S. within the prior 15 years.
- Evidence of investing or in the process of investing the required amount of money, i.e., $500,000 or $900,000, depending on the date of the application.
If any of the documents require translation into English, the USCIS submission must include the complete English translation certified as “complete and accurate” by the translator.
Although the supporting documentation varies by the individual applicant, when the petition is sent to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for submission, the average paperwork package weighs about 15 pounds and consists of hundreds of pages.
The goal is not only submitting the proper documentation, but also submitting it in a way that makes the review of your petition a relatively straightforward exercise by the USCIS immigration officer. If the documents require extensive clarification because they were not prepared correctly, that will delay or sabotage your application. Lack of evidence supporting the application is a common reason for denying an initial I-526 submission.
In the best-case scenario, you can expect a decision on your petition from the USCIS within 12 to 18 months.
When it comes to immigration law, the only constant is change. Major changes are coming to the EB-5 visa process as of November 21, 2019. It is the job of immigration attorneys to keep abreast of these and other changes.
Regional Center Investment
For those investing in a Regional Center, a qualified EB-5 lawyer is a must. Most Regional Centers require immigration attorneys to assist potential investors with their filings. Your attorney can help you for your purposes, while performing the necessary due diligence.
Not Just an Attorney
While hiring an EB-5 lawyer is crucial, this is not the only professional whose expertise you will need during this lengthy process. Also consider hiring an accountant and financial advisor to help you make decisions. You are making a major, extremely expensive life change, and will need extensive legal and financial guidance.
How Lightstone Can Help
As one of the largest privately-held real estate companies in the country, Lightstone has more than $6 billion in assets under management and development. To date, we have raised more than $400 million in EB-5 investments and created nearly 10,000 jobs nationwide. Our track record in this area is second to none. If you would like more information about the EB-5 visa and how Lightstone can help, please fill out our contact form.