How quickly can an investor obtain an EB-5 visa and enter the United States?

The time it takes for a foreign investor to obtain an EB-5 visa varies depending on their unique circumstances. Investors who select an exemplar project, for instance, may experience an expedited I-526 adjudication. However, these situations are rare and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has yet to make a determination regarding these types of projects after the passing of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act.

In most cases, there are certain steps an EB-5 investor must take to receive their EB-5 visa.

First, the investor must conduct their due diligence, select a suitable project, and place the required minimum amount of money at risk. Once the investment has been made, the investor can file Form I-526. USCIS processing times for I-526 petitions are notoriously slow, varying from a few months in the case of expedited projects, to a few years for most others. During this time, investors who currently reside in the United States have a new advantage. Thanks to the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act, they can file Form I-485 to adjust their status while they wait for their Form I-526 approval. Investors who do not reside in the United States must file Form DS-260 and be processed through their home country’s embassy or U.S. consulate. In this case, Form I-526 must be approved before conditional permanent resident status is granted.

Conditional permanent resident status is effective for two years, during which time the investor must reside in the United States. Travel is allowed during this time, but restrictions apply.

The key takeaway is that foreign investors cannot enter the United States until their Form I-526 has been approved. For investors eager to relocate, the slow USCIS processing times can be very frustrating. Those who already reside in the United States, such as holders of H-1B or L-1 visas, have the advantage of being able to file Form I-526 and Form I-485 concurrently, significantly reducing their processing time. It is in an investor’s best interest to obtain the help of an immigration attorney who can provide guidance throughout the EB5 investment process.