What’s the first step to initiating an EB-5 investment through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)? Filing an I-526 petition. This submission packet is every EB-5 investor’s opportunity to outline details about themselves and their plans for participation in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. It includes information regarding their EB5 investment in a program-approved project such as details about the new commercial enterprise (NCE), confirmation on how the capital will create the minimum 10 full-time U.S. jobs required, and exactly where the EB-5 investment capital has been sourced from. Once an investor’s plan (in other words, their petition) has been approved, they are eligible for an EB-5 visa, and they, as well as their eligible family members, can apply for conditional permanent resident status.
When the Actual EB-5 Investment Occurs
Generally speaking, the investor transfers their EB-5 investment capital to the designated escrow account before filing their I-526 petition. Foreign nationals must commit to investing a minimum of $1.8 million in a program-approved project – unless they have selected a project within a targeted employment area (TEA), in which case they are only required to invest $900,000. Once the capital exchange is made, they must compile and submit their I-526 form and all supporting paperwork. After the petition packet is submitted, the investor is considered to have officially launched their EB-5 application process. Keep in mind that if a USCIS adjudicator ultimately denies an investor’s EB5 investment submission, the escrowed capital is generally returned to them in full, but it depends on the terms in the project documentation.
What Information Is Required to Complete Form I-526
A substantial amount of information is required of those wishing to participate in the EB5 investment program – information about the investment itself, about themselves, and about their family members, for instance. Here are some of the basic details included on every EB-5 investor’s I-526 form:
- Personal information about the applicant, their spouse, and their dependent children, such as address and employment histories and each person’s country of citizenship
- The present U.S. immigration status of those living in the U.S. while holding a different visa, if applicable
- The investor’s history of working with U.S. immigration services and any visas they have previously applied for and received
- Detailed information about the EB-5 investment
Obtaining an I-526 petition form is easy. So is gathering most of the initial information an EB-5 investor needs to complete it. Collecting the supplementary documentation is by far the most challenging aspect of putting together an I-526 petition. One of the most important categories of supporting evidence is that which proves the lawful sources of the EB-5 capital.
What Supporting Evidence for an I-526 Looks Like
An applicant’s I-526 submission packet can be quite the compilation of documents. It takes a substantial amount of evidence to support an EB-5 investment, which reaches hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum. The most time-consuming documentation to compile is typically the source-of-funds evidence for an EB5 investment, which proves the legality of the capital being infused into the U.S. economy. Depending on what kind of capital the investor is using, gathering the proper documents can be tricky. For instance, when capital is derived from a gift, a letter must accompany the sourcing documents, and it must outline the amount gifted and a waiver of the recipient investor’s obligation to repay it. Additionally, there must be a paper trail for the lawful acquisition of the funds by the donor.
Applicants are allowed to pull funding from a variety of lawful sources including but not limited to:
- Personal earnings from income or other investments
- Loans from financial institutions
- Money inherited from a relative
- Donations or gifts from family members or friends
Following fund-sourcing documentation, the second-most daunting task is gathering the back-up documentation for the investor’s selected EB-5 project. Investors must include reports such as the following:
- Financial projections
- Job creation plans
- Hiring timetables
Additionally, when a program participant elects to infuse their EB-5 investment capital into a TEA project, they must also append evidence reflecting the project’s likelihood of meeting the targeted employment area criteria. All of this information (and more) should showcase how the investor will ultimately fulfill all the program requirements within their two-year conditional permanent residency window.
Where to Get Additional Help with the I-526 Process
All told, the exact investment procedure is different for each investment and should be available in the project documents an investor reviews prior to completing their project selection process. One way for an investor to ensure they fully understand the projects they are considering is to partner with an immigration attorney who specializes in the EB-5 program. The right legal counsel will help an investor:
- Determine the suitability of the project based on the investor’s personal and business goals
- Conduct meticulous due diligence so that they select a trustworthy EB-5 project with low financial and immigration risk
- Oversee the commitment of EB-5 investment funding to an escrow account
- Develop a comprehensive I-526 petition for submission
An experienced EB-5 immigration attorney is especially helpful when working on source-of-funds documentation. While some funds are easier to trace, others can be rather difficult and time-consuming. Consulting a professional can significantly ease the burden of determining which sources are best-suited for an investor’s unique EB-5 journey. Moreover, partnering with an expert in the innerworkings of the EB-5 program can give an investor the edge of industry experience. An immigration lawyer can ensure an EB-5 investor’s comprehensive I-526 petition packet includes all required documentation and can help them present it such that the adjudicator can quickly process the application. This reduces the likelihood for requests for evidence (RFEs) or, worse, notices of intent to deny (NOIDs). Collaboration with an EB-5 immigration attorney puts EB-5 investors more than a step ahead of the rest on their journey to a life of freedom in the United States.
To get a better idea of what an I-526 petition necessitates, locate the most recent version of the official form on the USCIS website and familiarize yourself with the information required. Then, carefully begin completing the form and compiling the evidence that will accompany it.