The EB-5 Processing Time Explained
Receiving an EB-5 visa is one of the best ways to obtain a green card for yourself, your spouse and minor children. However, expect EB-5 processing to take time. In a best-case scenario, you can expect EB-5 processing to take at least twelve months. The process often takes much longer, especially if you are from China, Vietnam or India.
Once you understand all that is required, you will realize why the turnaround time is so long and why you need an experienced immigration lawyer to guide you through the process of obtaining an EB-5 visa.
EB-5 Processing Basic Requirements
To qualify as an EB-5 investor, you must prove that you have legally obtained funds to invest along with necessary documentation of either $500,000 or $1 million in a direct investment or in a Regional Center sponsored investment. The $500,000 qualification is for investments in “Targeted Employment Areas” (TEA). A TEA is a rural area or an area with an unemployment rate at least 150 percent of the national average.
A direct investment requires starting your own business as per EB-5 regulations. For example, purchasing a franchise is considered starting your own business under EB-5 rules. Your business must create and maintain a minimum of 10 full-time jobs within two years.
If you opt to go the Regional Center route, you pool an investment into the project with that of other investors into a project sponsored by the Regional Center. While the minimum creation of 10 full-time jobs is still in place with a Regional Center Project, there is another advantage. An investment into a Regional Center Project qualifies not only for direct job creation but also for indirect job creation.
For example, indirect job creation may include those whose employment is created through economic expansion due to the Regional Center Project. Calculating the indirect jobs created requires a detailed economic report produced by an economist. The plan will explore revenues and expenditures, direct job creation and reasonable expectation of indirect job creation.
You must also undergo a criminal background check as well as a medical examination. The latter consists of a physical examination and proof that you are up-to-date on all vaccinations.
EB-5 Processing Step by Step
Most EB-5 investors – roughly 90 percent – decide to invest through a Regional Center rather than make a direct investment. We will concentrate on that Regional Center process.
- First, you must select the right Regional Center project in which to invest. You may have to wait until that project opens up to new subscribers. Expect this step to take between one and three months. You will require this time to do your research and determine the best Regional Center project for your funds.
- Once you have made your decision, it should take your attorney another month to prepare your EB-5 application.
- The next step is the Form I-526, “Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur,” review by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While the approximate time for a USCIS review and processing is twelve months, some investor approvals may take considerably longer depending on the country of origin.
- EB-5 processing is the wild card in terms of time since much depends on the current USCIS backlog and your country of origin. Getting an appointment for the consulate interview or Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,” filing may take between four and nine months. However, once you receive approval for a conditional green card, valid for two years, you, your spouse and unmarried minor children under 21 can enter the U.S. and live and work as residents. You can live and work in any state, not necessarily the one in which you have made your investment.
- This next step in EB-5 processing relates to your conditional green card. Between month 21 and 24 after receiving your conditional green card, you must file Form I-829, “Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.” Expect this process to take up to twenty-four months, although it is usually shorter. At the end of this step, you should receive your permanent green card. You must prove that you have created the 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. workers at this time.
- The final step takes place at least five years after receiving your permanent green card. You may apply for U.S. citizenship. Keep in mind that you must remain physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months during those five years. After applying for naturalization, you should receive U.S. citizenship approval within six months to one year.
EB-5 Processing Delays
It is not uncommon to experience delays during the EB-5 process. This is usually because USCIS requires additional information from the applicant after the filing of Form I-526. Most EB-5 applicants will receive such a USCIS request and are asked to provide additional details concerning the nature of the business enterprise. Note that this is more likely to affect direct investors rather than those investing in a Regional Center. If you are asked to provide further information and documentation, bring the USCIS request to your lawyer at once. It is important to respond to these requests as soon as possible.