What is the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) and how is it different from the California Service Center (CSC)?

The Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office that manages the EB-5 program and processes EB-5 petitions. USCIS service centers process and adjudicate certain immigration petitions and applications, but not I-526 and I-829 petitions, which are related only to the EB-5 program.

The Service Center Operations Directorate (SCOPS) has five service centers: the California, Nebraska, Potomac, Texas, and Vermont Service Centers. Different service centers have jurisdiction over different types of forms, and in some cases, the petitioner’s state of residence may also affect jurisdiction. While the IPO adjudicates EB-5 petitions, service centers adjudicate petitions required during the EB-5 process that apply to other visa categories too, such as Form I-485.

Hard copies of petitions and forms are typically sent to a USCIS lockbox, which is a secure facility used to facilitate the deposit and collection of fees. Thus, the lockbox service provider oversees the intake of documents and the collection of the related fees for application packs and other document submitted by mail. The service provider is not involved in the adjudication of petitions or applications, but it does accept or reject applications and the associated fees based on specific rules. For example, if the incorrect fee is submitted with a specific application, the application may be returned to the applicant or their representative. The service manager sends application files to the relevant USCIS office or service center for further processing.

To ensure that EB-5 petitioners submit their petitions and applications to the correct USCIS lockbox facility, they should check the “Where to File” section of the relevant page on the USCIS website, as listed for Form I-526, Form I-485, and Form I-829. The Form Filing Tips are also helpful.

To avoid the rejection of a petition before it is sent on for processing, EB-5 investors should follow petition best practices to ensure that their petitions are properly filed. It may be best to work with an EB-5 practitioner to avoid delays.