The first step in becoming a U.S. citizen through the EB-5 program is to make a qualifying investment in an eligible new commercial enterprise (NCE) and file Form I-526. It is highly advisable to hire an immigration attorney from the beginning to help conduct due diligence, assemble the necessary documentation, advise on a sound EB-5 project with minimal financial and immigration risk, and provide general guidance.
As of July 12, 2022, in accordance with the 2022 EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has split the I-526 petition two ways: Form I-526, Immigrant Petition for Standalone Investor, is intended for EB-5 investors who plan to pursue direct investment, while Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, is intended for EB-5 investors who choose to invest in a regional center sponsored EB-5 project.
After the I-526 petition has been approved, the EB-5 investor must either adjust status or undergo consular processing. If the EB-5 investor was previously residing in the United States under a valid specified non-resident visa (the H-1B, E-2 or F-1), they may be eligible for concurrent filing of Forms I-526 and I-485. In the meantime, EB-5 investors who are living overseas at the time they receive approval of Form I-526 must undergo consular processing.
Once consular processing or adjustment of status has been completed, the EB-5 investor may apply for an EB-5 visa and conditional green card. Upon issuance of conditional permanent resident status, the EB-5 investor is permitted to work, live and study anywhere in the United States for up to two years. In the 90 days preceding the expiration of their conditional green card, the EB-5 investor must file Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.
Once the EB-5 investor has been granted lawful permanent residency, they must maintain status for at least five years before being able to apply for U.S. citizenship. At this stage, the EB-5 investor may apply for naturalization by filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.