All times below are approximate.
Step 1 – Prepare I-526 petition – Two Months
Your I-526 petition is your application to the USCIS to consider your application to receive a permanent residence status (“green card”) through the EB-5 visa program. The I-526 itself does not by itself result in a green card. A second step (see Step 2 below) will be required before you are eligible to receive the green card. Filing a I-526 petition does not provide legal status to remain in the U.S.; so, if you are in the U.S. when you file the I-526 petition, you must maintain your status in the U.S. based on another visa category in order to receive your green card without having to return to your home country. Preparing the I-526 petition is a complex and time-consuming undertaking, for both you and your attorney. Generally speaking approximately two months is required to prepare the petition. Preparation can take longer if your sources of investment finds are not easy to document (poor tax returns, complex business sources of income), and occasionally take less time (tax returns showing consistently high income, a recent sale of easily documented property, for example).
When working with EB-5 Analytics, project selection is more efficient because when you start with us we have already winnowed the field of EB-5 projects down to the five (± 1) lowest-risk EB-5 projects on the market, and we present “Executive Summary” profiles on each project to the investor for consideration. Nonetheless, investors often spend one to two months asking us questions until they are confident that they have selected the very best project given their investment criteria. Investment funds do not have to be wired to the project until a few days before the attorney is ready to file the petition.
I-526 petition preparation and EB-5 project selection can proceed concurrently. Little interaction is required with the attorney when project selection is underway. The best attorneys won’t want to be involved in project selection, anyway, since they understand that they lack the training and experience in financial analysis that a reliable project referral requires (even though the days of attorney accepting illegal finder fees to funnel investors to cooperative regional centers are probably over, beware of attorneys who try to guide you to a project from which they might be obtaining an indirect benefit, such as legal work referred back to the attorney by the grateful regional center.
Step 2 – Wait for your I-526 to be approved or denied – 25 months
There are currently over 30,000 I-526 petitions waiting adjudication in the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO). An examiner can review an I-526 petition in a matter of hours, so during most of the wait time your petition will be sitting in a warehouse waiting to advance in the queue. Unfortunately, expediting the petition review is all but impossible.
If your I-526 is denied, the project sponsor is lawfully obligated to return your investment principal. Project sponsors varies about returning the administrative fee in the event of an I-526 denial, with most adopting a “fault” standard whereby the administrative fee is returned to the investor if the denial is based on project issues, but keeping the fee if the denial is based on investor source-of-funds issue.
Step 3 – Obtaining the Conditional Green Card – four to nine months
If you are located outside the U.S. when your I-526 petition is approved, the process of obtaining your first green card will be relatively straightforward. Your approved case file will be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which will request documents (birth certificates, police certificates, etc.) from you and your spouse and immigrating unmarried children under 21 years of age in anticipation of the Consular interview. Once all documents are received by the NVC, you will be assigned an interview date at the U.S. consulate that has jurisdiction over your place of residence. The interview itself usually takes place four to six months after the I-526 is approved. If your visa is approved, you will receive your passport back from the Consulate with the EB-5 visa attached inside, along with a sealed packet of documents for presentation at customs when you cross the U.S. border (typically, in the airport). After a brief meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, your passport will be stamped to indicate that you have obtained conditional permanent residence status in the U.S. (you have your green card status, although the actual card itself will be mailed to you two to three months later). Walking out of the airport you are eligible to work, obtain a social security card, driver’s license, etc., and can enjoy all other benefits of lawful permanent residents in the U.S.
If you are present in the U.S. when your I-526 petition is approved, the process of obtaining your first green card will a bit more complicated. Upon I-526 petition approval, your attorney will file a I-485 petition to convert your temporary status to lawful permanent residence status. Your first green card will be issued when your I-485 application is approved. Since the I-485 generally takes at least six months to be approved, your attorney will file applications for temporary work and travel privileges while you are waiting for your I-485 application to be approved. These applications themselves take about three months to be approved, but they do shorten the wait time until the applicant can work without an employer sponsor and also travel outside the U.S. while the I-485 is processing.
Step 4 – Conditional Permanent Residence Period – 21 to 24 months
During the conditional permanent residence period, the green card holder has all the rights and privileges of any other permanent residence, with the sole exception that the conditional residence period is limited to two years.
Step 5 – Removal of Conditions on Lawful Residence Status – 28 months
21 months after your conditional green card is issued, a three-month window opens up for you to convert your two-year green card to a permanent green card. Your attorney will file an I-829 petition to remove the conditional nature of your residency status. The purpose of this petition is to demonstrate that the investor maintained his/her investment up until I-829 filing and that 10 jobs were created by virtue of the investor’s capital investment. If the two-year card expires while the I-829 petition is processing, the card will automatically renew for an additional year.
For those interested in U.S. Citizenship, green card holder become eligible to File the N-400 Application for Citizenship five years after the first green card was issued.
See our flow chart below for more details.