Most U.S. immigration options are high risk and uncertain. The EB-5 investment program, however, is a reliable, relatively straightforward path to a U.S. Green Card. Since 1990, the EB-5 visa has enabled thousands of foreign nationals to begin a new life in the United States.
Frequent delays in EB-5 visa processing have been detrimental to the program. Form I-526 processing by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is known to be particularly long—often longer than two years. These slow adjudication speeds inconvenience investors who are eager to start working in the United States. For many such investors, the concern is that their children will age out and become ineligible for the EB-5 investment visa. The longer USCIS takes to process Form I-526, the more likely the EB-5 project will run into unforeseen challenges or be forced to make material changes. Such problems pose significant immigration risk to investors. Investors who currently hold U.S. visas with nearing expiration dates may not be able to wait years before receiving their initial two-year residency.
Investors in direct EB-5 projects may be able to shorten their I-526 petition processing times and receive green cards in a matter of months, instead of years, by applying to USCIS for expedited status.
What Is Expedited EB-5 Status?
Expedited status provides investors with quicker I-526 petition processing. Expedited I-526 petitions are usually processed within four to eight months. This reduction of the adjudication time is substantial, making expedited status desirable for EB-5 offerings. As a result, direct EB-5 projects with expedited status often gain quicker access to EB-5 investment capital.
Obtaining Expedited EB-5 I-526 Petition Processing
Successfully applying for expedited status requires careful planning on the part of the project sponsors. The vast majority of projects do not qualify. In most cases, USCIS approves expedited status applications from investors in projects that promote urgent U.S. national interests. The agency explains that “U.S. government interests may include, but are not limited to, cases identified as urgent by other government agencies, including labor and employment agencies, and public safety or national security interests.” Examples of EB-5 projects that might serve national interests include research facilities developing new COVID-19 treatments or residential real estate development in an area recently affected by a natural disaster.
The first step for project sponsors is to obtain a letter of support from a senior-ranking official of a federal, state, or local U.S. government agency. This document must demonstrate a compelling need for the project to operate. Then, the sponsors must gather extensive documentation outlining the scope of the project and showing how the EB-5 investment funding will be used to further U.S. national interests. Third-party studies and economic data may be needed to provide USCIS with the necessary level of evidence.
The project sponsors should prepare a cover letter presenting their main arguments with references to their supporting documentation. These documents are prepared by the project sponsor and provided to the immigration attorneys of the project’s EB-5 investors. The expedite application will be submitted for each of the project’s EB-5 investors seeking expedited processing after the investor’s I-526 petition has been filed.
Benefits of Investing in an Expedited EB-5 Project
EB-5 projects that qualify for expedited status are extremely rare. Foreign nationals who have the chance to invest in such projects should seriously consider doing so. Investors might be concerned with gaining employment authorization quickly, preventing their children from aging out, and reducing the possibility of material changes to their applications. Expedited processing can minimize these challenges through shorter processing times. In short, expedited projects allow investors to enjoy U.S. permanent resident status far sooner than is otherwise possible.
Foreign nationals from countries with high volumes of EB-5 investors have an additional incentive to invest in an expedited project: gaining approval for their I-526 petitions before cutoff dates are imposed on their countries of origin. The EB-5 investment program restricts when investors from oversubscribed countries can apply for and receive conditional permanent resident visas. While direct EB-5 investors have enjoyed “Current” status since December 2021, processing backlogs are expected to return for direct investors in high-demand countries, such as China and Vietnam, if the regional center program is reauthorized.
If foreign nationals invest in expedited projects, they may avoid future backlogs and receive their EB-5 Green Cards in months rather than years.
Foreign nationals should consider beginning the investment process promptly. Upcoming EB-5 reform may raise the minimum investment requirement substantially. The best projects offer low financial risk, high probabilities of immigration success, and expedited status.
EB5 Affiliate Network’s Higher Ground Education EB-5 Project Has Filed for Expedited Status
One project offered by EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN), Higher Ground Education (HGE) Schools direct EB-5 project, is seeking expedited status for its investors. HGE is increasing access to childcare and early childhood education near U.S. military installations. Lack of access to quality, affordable childcare and education for U.S. military personnel has been a longstanding issue. This issue directly affects morale, recruiting, retention, and combat readiness. Ultimately, lack of access to childcare has been recognized by the Department of Defense, Department of Education, and Executive Office of the President as a critical national security issue. EB5AN believes that this project will qualify for expedited I-526 processing.