The EB-5 program, also known as the “investment green card” program, offers a unique pathway to permanent residency in the United States for foreign investors. 

But with its multi-step process stretched out over many years, navigating the EB-5 timeline can seem daunting. This article demystifies the journey, providing a detailed breakdown of each step along with its corresponding timeframe. Buckle up as we unveil the investment green card timeline:

Step 1: Initial Consultation & Investment Selection (1-2 weeks)

  • Seek legal counsel: Consult an experienced immigration attorney specializing in EB-5 to understand your eligibility, investment options, and the overall process. We have other resources or you can speak with us to determine whether an attorney really has adequate experience specifically in EB-5 cases, which significantly differ from other immigration categories.
  • Explore investment options: Research various EB-5 projects across different industries and locations, considering factors like risk profile, job creation potential, and track record. It is important not to rely merely on desktop Internet research, since there is often distorted or incomplete information online. Speaking with regional centers and attorneys directly is generally the most helpful.
  • Choose your investment: Create a short-list of projects that aligns with your financial goals, risk tolerance, and EB-5 eligibility requirements.

Step 2: Fund Selection & Due Diligence (2-4 weeks)

  • Secure investment funds: Gather the necessary capital to meet the minimum investment amount, currently $800,000 for targeted employment areas (TEAs) and rural areas and $1,025,000 for projects outside these areas. In reality, nearly all investors participate at the $800,000 level.
  • Conduct due diligence: Thoroughly investigate the chosen project, its business plan, financial stability, and potential risks. This may involve reviewing offering documents, visiting the project site, and speaking with other investors.
  • Finalize investment commitment: Once satisfied with the due diligence, sign the investment agreement and transfer the funds to an escrow account. However, transfer of the funds can happen only after completing all of the work with your attorney regarding the source and path of funds being invested. Preparing the source of funds documentation is what requires the most time and effort at the initial stage. From our experience it generally takes 3-6 months–sometimes longer–to prepare and translate all the needed documentation for the initial I-526 filing (see below).

Step 3: I-526 Petition Filing & USCIS Processing (12-18 months)

  • Prepare and submit Form I-526: This petition serves as your formal application to USCIS for classification as an EB-5 immigrant investor. It requires comprehensive documentation proving your investment, lawful source of funds, and compliance with program requirements.
  • USCIS review and adjudication: USCIS meticulously scrutinizes your petition, verifying all information and ensuring it adheres to EB-5 regulations. This stage can take anywhere from 24 to 36 months, depending on USCIS’ workload and case complexity. However, since passage of the RIA in 2023, rural area projects are being prioritized, and adjudication for these projects are in fact moving much faster. Although there is no specific deadline for expedited adjudication of rural projects, based on recent experience cases are getting reviewed in 6-12 months, oftentimes even faster.
  • Respond to requests for evidence (RFEs): If USCIS requires further clarification or documentation, be prepared to promptly submit any requested evidence within the stipulated timeframe. In general approximately 25% of petitions receive a Request for Evidence. Therefore the overall number is not that high, but the questions and requests they are making in them have become increasingly difficult and demanding.

Step 4: Visa Interview & Approval (6-12 months)

  • Schedule and attend the visa interview: Once your I-526 petition is approved, you’ll be scheduled for an in-person interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. This interview assesses your eligibility, investment bona fides, and overall immigration intentions.
  • Adjustment of Status: Investors also have the option of adjusting status in the U.S. rather than going through the consular process. If the investor and family have other visas that would allow them to reach the United States, they can adjust status here. In general the process of adjusting takes longer than going through the embassy, but adjustment of status allows the investor to more quickly come to the U.S. and start residing here.
    Moreover, one of the biggest features of the revised EB-5 law of 2023 is that EB-5 applicants and their family can now live and reside in the U.S. while awaiting a decision for their I-526. Therefore they can receive temporary travel docs and work authorization while awaiting a decision on their case. This has provided a tremendous relief to those who don’t want to wait 2-3 years overseas for a decision on their EB-5 petition.
  • Visa issuance: Upon successful completion of the interview and background checks, the consular officer will decide on your visa application. Generally if there are no problems at the interview, the visa is issued within a week or less from the time of the interview. However, in rare cases they might need to do additional checks, which could delay the process significantly. Once receiving the visa, the investor and family members must enter the U.S. within 180 days after issuance of the visa.

Step 5: Green Card Issuance & Conditional Period (2 years)

  • Receive your conditional green card: Upon visa approval, you’ll receive a conditional green card, valid for two years, after your first entrance to the U.S. with the EB-5 visa. The green cards will be mailed to the U.S. address you indicated in your consular forms. This allows you to live, work, and travel freely outside the United States.
  • Maintain investment and job creation: Your funds must remain in the project for at least two years after the time of investment. During this time the job creation must also occur. 

Step 6: I-829 Petition Filing & Removal of Conditions (2-3 years)

  • File Form I-829: 90 days or less before the conditional green card expires, the investor must submit Form I-829 to USCIS, the petition to remove conditions of permanent residency. This petition demonstrates sustained investment, job creation, and compliance with program requirements. Most of the work required at this stage involves interaction with the regional center to collect the required data on the investment and job creation to satisfy the requirements of USCIS. 
  • USCIS review and adjudication: Similar to the I-526 stage, USCIS will review your petition and supporting evidence. The processing timeframe varies, but lately it has been taking 2-3 years or longer. Of course the conditional residency of the applicant and his family is automatically extended during this waiting time so they remain valid green card holders.

Step 7: Green Card Renewal (Optional: Every 10 years)

  • Renew your green card: After successfully removing the conditions and obtaining your permanent green card, you can renew it every 10 years to maintain your lawful permanent resident status.

Remember: This timeline is for general informational purposes only and will vary depending on individual circumstances, USCIS processing workloads, and potential delays. Consulting an experienced immigration attorney is crucial to navigate the nuances of the EB-5 program and ensure a smooth application process.

  • For more details on whether you are a good candidate for EB-5 and what possible problems could arise for you in the EB-5 context, please reach out to us to schedule a consultation with one of experienced EB-5 attorneys. As mentioned above, EB-5 cases are extremely complicated, and it is critical to work with an immigration attorney with experience specifically in this area. We can advise on how to select an appropriate attorney as well as how to find a safe and reliable project–as well as discuss alternatives if EB-5 is not the right fit for you.
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