The I-526 Petition: What to Expect

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is an opportunity for foreign investors to achieve permanent residency status in the United States through a qualifying EB-5 investment. This lawfully sourced investment of at least $1.8 million must meet certain requirements, such as creating at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. While the rewards of permanent residence in the United States are bountiful, the EB5 investment process itself can be time-consuming and challenging, especially in regard to the I-526 petition.

Form I-526

Form I-526 is a petition to obtain conditional permanent residency status in the United States. Upon its approval, an investor may apply for a green card. However, this application can take several weeks or even months to complete. Therefore, it is always best to start the process as early as possible.

When selecting a potential EB-5 investment project, prospective investors should first conduct due diligence to ensure that both the project and its EB-5 regional center are the right fit for their needs and goals. Once they have made their selection, the investor should transfer their EB-5 investment capital the designated project or escrow account. At this point, the investor should file their I-526 petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Proper Documentation

On the I-526 petition, EB5 investment participants must provide personal information about themselves and any eligible family members. They must provide documentation about their investment and their selected EB-5 project, as well as prove that their investment capital was transferred to the project’s account or a designated escrow account. If any of their enclosed documents are in a language other than English, the investor must also include certified translations with their I-526 petition.

Additionally, investors must provide documentation proving that their investment capital has been lawfully sourced. EB-5 investment funds can be sourced from an inheritance, a business, the investor’s own employment, the selling of assets, a gift from a family member, or even a loan. Documentation for sources of funds can sometimes be difficult to provide, depending on the specific source. Thus, it is best that EB-5 investors consult with an immigration lawyer experienced in the EB5 investment program.

TEAs and I-526 Petitions

EB-5 investment participants often choose to make their investment in a targeted employment area (TEA)—areas designated by USCIS as either being rural or experiencing high unemployment. EB-5 projects located in a TEA allow for a lower minimum EB5 investment of only $900,000, as opposed to the standard $1.8 million.

Generally, regional centers primarily work with EB-5 investment projects located in TEAs. Consequently, there is a high likelihood that any prospective EB-5 investor will be investing in a project located in a TEA. If this is the case, the investor must provide additional documentation on their I-526 petition justifying the area’s TEA designation in order to receive USCIS approval of their lower investment amount.

Delays After Filing

Although gathering documentation and filing an I-526 petition can be an arduous process, investors still face a long road ahead. Even after I-526 submission, significant delays can occur. Processing times at USCIS can be dreadfully slow, a global pandemic notwithstanding. Depending on the investor’s nationality, the wait time for I-526 adjudication can stretch as long as five or six years.

No matter how eager a prospective EB-5 investor may be, it is still advisable to take the time to fully understand an EB-5 project’s documentation, as well as an investor’s responsibilities within the new commercial enterprise (NCE) before investing. Hiring an immigration lawyer with experience in EB-5 can help guide investors through their I-526 preparation and find the right project for them and their family. Proper due diligence, an early start, and guidance from experienced EB-5 professionals can make all the difference in one’s I-526 application and their EB-5 investment journey.