Learn about the expected length of the EB5 process in 2022 and beyond.
The length of the EB-5 visa process can vary considerably for each immigrant investor. Since each visa applicant’s situation is different, a variety of factors can either lengthen or shorten wait times. This article breaks down the average time frames for each step of the EB-5 visa process.
What Is An EB-5 Visa?
The EB-5 visa process allows for an immigrant, their spouse, and their unmarried children under the age of 21 to each achieve conditional permanent residency status in the U.S. and eventually receive green cards.
Investors make the required minimum investment in a new commercial enterprise (NCE) in the U.S. and demonstrate that their investment creates or preserves 10 permanent full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
Immigrant investors can invest directly in an NCE or pool their money with other investors through the EB-5 Regional Center Program.
Upon making a qualifying investment and receiving approval from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an EB-5 investor, his or her spouse, and any unmarried children under age 21 will be granted conditional permanent residence.
Two years later, if the investment has proven to meet the program’s requirements, the investor and his or her family will have the conditions removed from their residency status.
Five years after first receiving conditional permanent resident status, they can become naturalized citizens.
With the passage of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, the minimum required investment for the EB 5 visa program has increased to $1,050,000. That investment threshold is lowered to $800,000 if the NCE is located in a targeted employment area (TEA).
For an EB-5 project to receive official TEA designation by USCIS, it must be located in either a rural area or an area with an unemployment rate least 50% higher than the national average. For investors seeking EB-5 projects in a TEA, EB-5 Affiliate Network keeps an up-to-date TEA map.
What Are The Benefits Of An EB-5 Visa?
The EB-5 immigrant investor visa is one of the fastest methods to gain permanent residency in the United States for both an investor and their spouse, as well as any unmarried children under the age of 21. Foreign investors will find there are many other direct benefits to choosing the EB-5 visa program over other immigrant visas:
- No visa sponsor requirements
- The EB 5 visa does not require a U.S. employer to sponsor the visa, as work-related residency visas do. Furthermore, EB-5 immigrant investors do not need an additional H-1B work visa for employment in the U.S.
- Eligible children can attend U.S. public schools
- An EB-5 investor’s eligible children can attend free U.S. public schools, from elementary school through high school. As EB 5 visa holders are permanent residents without conditions, eligible children can also attend U.S. colleges and universities and the lower tuition rate for U.S. local students.
- No skills required
- The EB 5 visa program does not require immigrant investors to have any sort of experience, specialized knowledge, or skills in order to get a U.S. green card. Eligible family members don’t have to have skills either, nor do they require pending U.S. employment or schooling to also receive a green card for the same EB-5 investment.
- Live and work anywhere
- An immigrant investor and their eligible family members will be able to live and work freely anywhere in the United States, without restriction. This includes states without state income tax, such as Florida.
- Potential for U.S. citizenship
- EB 5 visa participants who have received their green cards may apply for U.S. citizenship after they have had established permanent residency in the United States for at least five years.
How Do I Apply For An EB-5 Visa?
The first step is to find help navigating the EB-5 visa process. EB5AN requires all investors to fill out an investor qualification questionnaire to determine whether the person qualifies as an accredited investor or qualified purchaser. Contact us to connect with the best EB-5 projects on the market and get started today.
Step 1: Prepare Reports and Sign Agreements
- Prepare a source-of-funds report to prove that the money for the EB-5 investment comes from lawful sources.
- Provide an Accredited Investor Certification letter.
- Complete our automated Escrow Acknowledgement and Subscription Booklet.
Step 2: Transfer Required EB-5 Investment Funds
- Transfer or wire the required $800,000.
- Transfer or wire the required administrative fee.
Step 3: File Form I-526 or I-526E for a Temporary Green Card
- Submit the source-of-funds Report to your immigration attorney, along with all other required supporting documentation to be included in the I-526 or I-526E petition.
- An investor’s immigration attorney will submit Form I-526 or I-526E to USCIS on the immigrant investor’s behalf. EB5AN can recommend EB-5 immigration attorneys to investors.
Step 4: Consulate Interview or Form I-485 Adjustment of Status
- Investors residing outside the U.S. must schedule a consulate interview at their designated U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- Investors already residing in the U.S. can file Form I-485 for adjustment of residency status concurrently with their I-526 or I-526E petition. An immigration attorney can help.
Step 5: Investor Receives Two-Year Green Card
- The EB-5 immigrant investor and their eligible family members are granted temporary permanent residency status, with conditions.
Step 6: Submit I-829 Petition for Removal of Temporary Green Card Conditions
- An investor’s immigration counsel will file Form I-829 to remove conditions three months before the investor’s conditional green card expires.
Once approved, the investor, their spouse, and unmarried children under 21 will each receive a permanent green card, granting full permanent residency in the United States without conditions.
Where Do I Apply For An EB-5 Visa?
The first major step for investors is to determine if they and their families are even eligible to receive an EB-5 immigrant visa.
EB5AN recommends that investors contact us for personalized recommendations on which EB-5 projects and EB-5 immigration attorneys would be best for them. EB5AN’s investor eligibility questionnaire will also allow us to better understand the needs of each individual investor and their family.
The second major step is to find an eligible EB-5 project. The investment must be in an NCE and must create or maintain at least 10 jobs.
Finding the right EB-5 project can better ensure a family’s immigration success. EB5AN keeps an up-to-date list of all available EB-5 projects that our experts recommend as the best projects for investing.
How Long Does It Take To Get An EB-5 Visa?
The EB-5 visa process is one of the fastest ways to get a U.S. green card for an investor and their family members. However, from the time an investment is made to the time the investor is approved for a green card is still a matter of years.
There are many websites that claim that the EB-5 process can take only six months to approve. This is false. This assumption is based on long-outdated data about approval times for I-526/I-526E petitions, just one of the many forms that require USCIS adjudication.
From start to finish, an average EB-5 timeline takes several years to complete.
Priority date backlogs often form in countries with high visa demand, causing even longer delays.
EB-5 visa processing times fluctuate often. The only reliable source for current EB 5 visa processing time data is USCIS’s website. USCIS processing data is updated every six months.
Estimated Processing Times for Each Step in the EB-5 Process
USCIS publishes estimated visa processing times for all EB-5 forms and petitions on its Case Processing Times page. The data is updated regularly on the immigration services website.
1. Investment and Documentation
Making a successful EB-5 investment in an NCE and properly gathering all supporting documentation for an I-526 or I-526E petition– as detailed above– can take an investor several weeks or months.
2. Form I-526/I-526E
Immigrant investors fill out one of the following petitions to apply for an EB 5 visa, depending on whether they invest directly or through a regional center:
- Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by a Standalone Investor
- Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by a Regional Center Investor
In the first investment model, funds are injected directly into a U.S. business. In the regional center program, an economic entity known as a regional center manages and deploys the capital.
An I-526 or I-526E petition provides USCIS with extensive documentation about an investor, their finances, and their EB-5 investment.
EB-5 investors receive a priority date upon submitting Form I-526/I-526E.
As of October 2022, the average time range for USCIS to adjudicate most I-526 petitions for mainland-born Chinese nationals is 80 months (this country is currently backlogged).
Non-backlogged countries are estimated at 52.5 months.
3. Form I-485/Form DS-260
Investors living in the United States must file Form I-485 to adjust the status of their visa to receive conditional residency. Form I-485 can be filed concurrently with Form I-526/I-526E.
Once their I-526/I-526E petition has been approved, applicants living outside the United States must submit Form DS-260 to apply for an immigrant visa.
After approval of Form I-485 or Form DS-260, an investor receives a conditional Green Card for two years.
The estimated processing time depends on which field office or service center adjudicates the form. Wait times and backlogs at the national visa center (NVC), USCIS, or immigration services centers can delay this process.
4. Form I-829
An I-829 petition approval removes the “conditions” from an immigrant investor’s conditional residency and grants permanent residency status in the United States.
Form I-829 must be filed within the last 90 days of the two-year conditional green card period.
As of October 2022, the estimated processing time for most I-829 filings is 57 months.
What Factors Impact the Processing Time for an EB-5 Visa?
The most significant factors affecting EB-5 visa processing times are visa availability and the volume of I-526/I-526E petitions filed.
Only 10,000 EB 5 immigrant investor visas are available globally each fiscal year, which runs from October 1 to September 30. And no more than 7% of the total number of immigrant visas can be set aside for any participating country.
All remaining unclaimed EB 5 visas are reassigned to countries with higher demand. In recent years, EB 5 visa demand has climbed much higher than supply.
The more people that file I-526/I-526E petitions, the more people are eligible for an EB-5 immigrant investor visa. This creates backlogs and increases wait times because of the limited EB 5 visa quota.
Applicants who file their petitions at the beginning of a surge in demand will have shorter wait times compared to those who file at the end.
It is also worth noting that the type of EB-5 capital investment used should not affect an investor’s processing times. EB-5 applicants can either invest directly or through the regional center program.
Applying Inside vs. Outside the United States
The EB5 visa processing timeline is also affected by where an investor is located. As mentioned previously, those residing in the United States at the time of applying for an EB 5 visa must take a slightly different route than those outside the country.
Investors inside the United States file Form I-485 to gain conditional residency status. In contrast, EB-5 investors outside the U.S. must file Form DS-260 at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home countries instead.
The processing times for both of these petitions may vary.
Expedited EB-5 Visa Processing
USCIS can grant expedited status to a new commercial enterprise that meets certain criteria, the most common of which is promoting urgent interests of the U.S. government.
For example, an addiction treatment center to combat the opioid epidemic may receive expedited status from the immigration services. This can reduce processing times from years to an average of 4 to 10 months.
USCIS only grants expedited EB 5 visa processing to exceptional EB-5 investment projects, regardless of whether they are direct or sponsored by a regional center investments entity.
Due to the shorter processing time, these projects may pose a greater financial and immigration risk for immigrant investors—USCIS may be more inclined to deny an incomplete or otherwise lacking EB 5 visa petition due to the narrower timeframe for processing.
Other Factors Affecting EB-5 Processing Times
As mentioned above, EB 5 visa processing times are largely dependent on the volume of petitions being adjudicated and visa availability. However, other variables are also involved.
Petition withdrawals, denials, and investor deaths will lower the total EB-5 visa demand. Conversely, family members joining the process or similar factors will cause an increase.
Since only a limited number of immigrant investor visas are allocated each fiscal year, countries with high demand can accumulate backlogs.
Occasionally, the DOS imposes cutoff dates to limit when investors from backlogged countries can apply for and receive their two-year green cards.
The date on which an investor files Form I-526 is known as the priority date. Investors from backlogged countries may have to wait for several more years than investors from countries with a low demand.
The monthly Visa Bulletins published by the DOS indicate the cutoff dates for backlogged countries.
Why Are Waiting Times for an EB-5 Visa So High in 2022?
The COVID-19 pandemic caused mass shutdowns across the world in 2020, affecting businesses and organizations alike; the EB-5 visa program was not exempt from these difficulties.
USCIS suspended routine visa and immigration services at all U.S. consulates and embassies during the height of the pandemic, meaning that foreign nationals living abroad were unable to apply for visas. Many investors experienced delays due to visa interview cancellations as well.
Fortunately for the EB-5 industry, the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 15, 2022. Significant changes implemented by this bill will have a lasting impact on processing times for both the direct and regional center investment models.
For instance, USCIS will now prioritize visa petitions from investors in TEA and public infrastructure projects. A significant 20% of the total EB-5 visa pool will be reserved for rural TEA investors.
Moreover, before the EB-5 Act of 2022, investors living in the United States had to wait for I-526/I-526E petition approval before filing an I-485 petition.
Now, EB-5 applicants can file I-485 and I-526 petitions simultaneously. This is a great advantage for investors living in the United States under other visa categories, who will now be able to adjust their immigration status much faster.
At the same time, both direct and regional center investors can choose projects with TEA designation to shorten the process.
U.S. Green Cards Are Worth the Wait
Obtaining permanent U.S. Green Cards will certainly be worth the wait. Through the direct investment model and regional centers, the EB-5 program results in job creation and promotes immigration, but it also has plenty of direct benefits for investors and their families.
- U.S. Education
- Investors’ unmarried children under 21, who are eligible for green cards through the EB-5 visa program, will be able to attend U.S. public schools for free from elementary school through high school;
- and will be able to pay “in-state” rates for public colleges and universities.
- Children will also have greater chances of admission to private U.S. schools, colleges, and universities.
- U.S. Employment & Lifestyle
- Investors, their spouse, and their children will have the ability to work at any U.S. business, without the need for an L1 or H-1B visa.
- They will also be able to live, travel, and work anywhere in the United States, without restriction;
- travel to nearly all other countries with greater ease;
- and access the most technologically advanced healthcare system in the world.
- U.S. Investment
- With one single passive investment, an entire immediate family can all receive U.S. green cards.
- The United States is one of the safest places in the world, in terms of political, economic, and military stability.
- Its strong laws and economy make it an ideal safe place for investing or living, even as a backup plan.
Prospective immigrant investors should not delay. Contact EB5AN to talk about your family’s immigrant investor plan and find available EB-5 projects and regional centers.