EB-5 investments can be lucrative financial endeavors, often generating handsome returns on investment. However, a high percentage of EB5 investment participants prioritize their goals of obtaining U.S. green cards for themselves and their eligible family members when electing to participate in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
Because of this, understanding the likelihood of EB-5 approval is a driving factor in the decision for foreign nationals to make an EB-5 investment in the first place. To be frank, denial is always a possibility. There are simply no guarantees. That said, the chances for I-526 and I-829 petition approval are good.
Start the EB-5 Investment Process with Your I-526 Submission
The very first form every prospective EB-5 investment participant is required to file with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is Form I-526. This submission officially sets off the EB-5 investment journey. Filing this petition means an investor has already identified their EB-5 project and has committed their capital to a designated escrow account. As one would imagine, by the time a prospective investor has made this submission, a lot of groundwork has already been laid. This fact—and the plethora of stipulations and required supplemental documentation—can make the I-526 an intimidating petition.
USCIS asks in-depth questions about an investor, their immediate family members, and the proposed project they are investing in. Additionally, petitioners are required to satisfy three key requirements to continue forward in their EB-5 journey:
- They must demonstrate they have committed their EB-5 funds to the NCE and will participate in the NCE’s management
- They must prove that the new commercial enterprise (NCE) receiving their EB-5 investment truly exists and features a viable job creation plan
- They must provide evidence that all EB-5 capital has been sourced lawfully
Historically, meeting the source-of-funds requirement has been the most difficult and time-consuming endeavor due to the various fund sources an investor must prove. Savvy investors tend to hire an experienced EB-5 immigration attorney to streamline this process, however. These industry experts can advise EB-5 clients on best fund sources to use and offer insight into any other challenging areas of the I-526 submission process.
A streamlined process is also another driving force behind the overwhelming preference to make an EB5 investment through an EB-5 regional center. These are USCIS-approved commercial entities that pool EB-5 capital resources and fund major projects. Reputable regional centers can offer professional guidance, including legal advice, which has been proven to increase investors’ chances for I-526 success. Another advantage of regional center investment? Relaxed investor involvement requirements. Merely signing on as a limited partner is sufficient to meet EB-5 program requirements when affiliated with a regional center.
Finish an EB-5 Investment with the Approval of Your I-829 Petition
Whereas the I-526 is a harrowing introduction to an investor’s EB-5 journey, the I-829 petition is often a far more exciting endeavor, signaling the EB5 investment journey’s end. Getting I-526 approval provides eligibility for two years of conditional U.S. permanent residency status for the investor and their qualified relatives. Then, close to the end of the two-year residency period, investors are required to submit Form I-829, which requests the removal of those conditions to obtain the right to live in the United States indefinitely.
This petition outlines for USCIS if and how an EB5 investment has met all program requirements that would allow the investor and their eligible family members to obtain their U.S. green cards. Program requirements include creating at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. employees and maintaining at-risk status for their EB-5 investment throughout the full investment period.
Again, alignment with a reputable EB-5 regional center can prove beneficial when developing an I-829 petition packet, especially when it comes to facilitating the newly created job count. Direct EB-5 investment participants are only allowed to count direct jobs, which are defined as those listed on the NCE’s payroll or construction jobs that last more than two years. Conversely, those who choose to invest through a regional center may include both indirect and induced jobs, which are defined as jobs that have been created through the procurement of goods and services by the NCE or by the wages spent by NCE employees in the community.
The Hard Numbers on I-526 and I-829 Approvals
The I-526 and I-829 petition processes can be extensive and cumbersome. Prospective investors often dedicate a lot of deliberation to whether approval rates justify the effort necessary to successfully complete an EB5 investment. The verdict for most is an overwhelming yes. For more than a decade, USCIS has maintained an average I-526 approval rate of nearly 83%. Even better, more than 90% of regional center investors’ I-526 petitions are approved, highlighting the advantage of partnership with the right EB-5 regional center.
For those who make it to I-829 petition submission, there’s more good news. Any foreign national who has successfully hurdled the first stage of USCIS adjudication (in other words, has had their I-526 petition approved) is highly unlikely to lose their permanent residency rights when filing their I-829 petition. Data shows that since 2016, USCIS has approved 96% of I-829 petitions. In the last eight years, the lowest approval rate on the books is 90%.
So, while it is impossible to guarantee approval, those are good odds. Despite risks for delays, setbacks, and even denial, foreign nationals can continue to embark on an EB-5 investment journey with little fear of ultimate denial. Furthermore, working earnestly toward fulfilling program requirements and consulting experienced EB-5 immigration attorneys throughout the process will only increase their chances of enjoying the countless benefits permanent residency status in the U.S.