Expedite EB5 Projects

How Investors Can Immigrate to the United States in Just a Few Months

Despite being one of the most reliable paths to U.S. permanent resident status, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is known for its long wait times. It usually takes several years for EB-5 foreign investors to obtain their Green Cards, and the processing times for EB-5 visa applications are often unconscionably long.

Therefore, many EB5 investment applicants would prefer for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate their visa petitions more quickly.

Fortunately, USCIS gives visa applicants the option to make an expedite request. If an EB-5 investor’s petition is granted expedited status, then USCIS reviews it in a few months rather than years. This measure can noticeably shorten the length of an investor’s EB-5 process.

How Can EB-5 Projects Gain Expedited Status?

In general, USCIS grants expedited status to a visa applicant if there is an urgent need behind their request. Each case varies, but the agency usually awards expedited status to a petition if it involves severe financial loss to a company or person; emergencies or urgent humanitarian reasons; or if the national interests of the United States are at stake.

Severe Financial Loss

The first criterion— severe financial loss— may take place if a company is forced to lay off workers because a key member of the management team is not awarded employment authorization. Or individuals may be in danger of losing their employment if they are unable to travel to the United States for work.

Expedite requests are also likely to be granted if they will avoid the loss of crucial public benefits or services.

Emergencies or Humanitarian Reasons

Expedite requests based on emergencies or urgent humanitarian reasons may be granted to applicants who are undergoing an illness, disability, or extreme living conditions and need to travel for urgent medical treatment. A death in the family may also warrant expedited status.

On the other hand, an emergency that requires workers from other countries to travel to the United States on short notice may also create a need for expedited visa applications. An example would be healthcare workers needed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. National Interests

Expedited visa petitions that promote national interests often demonstrate that the petitioner plays a crucial, urgent role in furthering cultural or social causes. For instance, an academic may be needed to conduct an upcoming cultural program, or medical professionals may be scheduled to carry out research that will benefit U.S. social interests.

In other cases, expedited status is given to petitioners that will promote government interests as defined by local, state, and federal agencies. These may include labor, employment, public safety, or national security issues.

These interests must be both urgent and substantive— USCIS states that the case at hand must be “of a scale or a uniqueness that requires immediate action to prevent real and serious harm to U.S. interests.”

For instance, a research facility developing treatments for a common disease or a residential real estate development in an area affected by a natural disaster may have an urgent and substantive need for more workers.

Moreover, if an expedite request in the national interests is made by a government agency, a senior-level official of that agency must support the request.

Expedited Projects in the EB-5 Investment Industry

Projects with expedited status are extremely rare in the EB-5 industry. If a project manager believes that their business will serve national interests, they will have to plan their expedite request carefully and make sure to present convincing, detailed information to USCIS. USCIS only awards expedited status to projects that clearly fulfill one or more of the above criteria.

Requesting Expedited Status

Most EB-5 projects that apply for expedited status seek to promote urgent national interests. In these cases, the first step is to obtain a letter from a senior-ranking official of a U.S. government agency. The letter must outline why there is a compelling need for the EB-5 project to be completed.

The applicants must also include data on the project’s business plan and scope, demonstrating as specifically as possible how the EB-5 capital will further national interests. Evidence such as third-party economic analyses will likely be needed to support a project’s claims.

All of the necessary documentation must be compiled along with a cover letter summarizing the main points. Once an EB-5 investor in the new commercial enterprise files Form I-526, the first visa petition in the EB-5 process, the request for expedited status is also submitted.

In essence, an EB-5 investor in a project with expedited status will have their I-526 petition evaluated in approximately four to eight months. They will thus be able to receive their initial two-year Green Cards and immigrate to the United States much faster than other applicants.

The EB-5 program offers two investment options: the direct model and the regional center program.

In the direct model, EB-5 funds are injected directly into a business, while regional centers are entities in charge of managing capital across various projects. Both direct and regional centers projects can obtain expedited status. Historically, regional centers projects have been more popular among investors.

Considerations for Investors in Expedite EB5 Projects

It is important for EB5 investors to note that expedited processing does not increase their chances of obtaining visa approval; it only guarantees that USCIS will review their petitions more quickly. Since the agency gives high priority to expedite visa petitions, the investor and project developer must make sure that all the needed evidence for Form I-526 is provided.

This documentation includes the project’s business approach, job creation projections, capital structure, lawful source of funds evidence, and proof that an EB-5 investment was made. If any information is missing, incomplete, or otherwise lacking, USCIS may issue a denial.

Expedited Projects and Cutoff Dates

In addition, gaining expedited status for Form I-526 does not allow foreign investors to circumvent any cutoff dates imposed on their country.

When a country has a particularly high volume of EB-5 investors, the Department of State (DOS) uses cutoff dates to restrict when visa applicants from these nationalities can apply for and receive their initial Green Cards. China, for instance, has produced most of the EB-5 foreign investors in the program’s history, and the demand for the EB-5 visa in this country remains exceptionally high.

The DOS has imposed a final action date of November 22, 2015, for Chinese investors, which means that any EB-5 applicants who filed Form I-526 after that date cannot receive their two-year residency visas— even if the petition has been approved. It is unclear when this date will advance so more investors can move on in the process.

Chinese investors in EB5 fast projects will be subject to cutoff dates just like all other applicants of their nationality, and they will still have to wait for a significant time before immigrating to the United States—even if their I-526 petitions are approved quickly.

In addition, high-demand countries like India and Vietnam will likely be imposed cutoff dates in the near future. Investors from these countries will be unable to benefit from expedited processing if their nationalities become oversubscribed.

In light of the above, expedited projects are most beneficial for investors from nationalities that are not backlogged or in danger of becoming backlogged.

Benefits of Investing in an Expedite EB5 Project

Being able to immigrate to the United States in a matter of months can be tremendously beneficial to EB5 investors. Besides avoiding long wait times, for instance, they will also be able to obtain employment authorization and work anywhere in the United States without restrictions.

On the other hand, investors who are currently in the United States under a different visa that will soon expire may be able to avoid leaving the country before their two-year residency period begins.

Benefits for Dependent Children

Further, the EB-5 program allows an applicant’s children to gain U.S. Green Cards only if they are dependent— that is, under the age of 21. If an investor’s child ages out while USCIS is processing Form I-526, they may not be able to immigrate to the United States.

Investors with dependent children nearing the age limit may be able to immigrate with their entire family if they find an expedited project.

Reducing the Risk of Material Changes and Other Challenges

Yet another benefit of EB5 petition processing is a reduced chance of material changes. USCIS considers that a material change has been made if an EB5 project significantly deviates from its original business plan or capital structure. Such a change may result in the denial of the investors’ visa petitions.

The longer USCIS takes to adjudicate a visa petition, the more likely it is for a commercial enterprise to run into unforeseen challenges or be forced to make a material change; therefore, expedited processing may increase an investor’s chances of successful immigration.

Developers may also benefit from expedited status by gaining quicker access to the EB5 funding.

Expedite EB 5 Projects: A Valuable Opportunity for Investors

The chance to obtain U.S. permanent residency is a rare opportunity—investors who have the chance to participate in expedited projects should seriously consider doing so. Obtaining expedited status can take years off the EB-5 process and help foreign nationals immigrate significantly sooner than expected, regardless of whether they are in the direct investment model or working with regional centers.

To learn more about expedite EB5 projects, interested foreign nationals can contact EB5AN and consult an immigration attorney.