What Are The I-526E Requirements?

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EB-5 Insider Team

A group of professionals with years of experience helping people immigrate to the US

Note: This article is for informational purposes only. We are not providing legal advice or selling securities. The articles and content on this site are of a general informational nature only and should not be relied upon for individual circumstances.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is one of the most sought-after ‘golden visas’ in the world. It’s the easiest way to obtain permanent residence and U.S. citizenship through investment, starting at just $800,000 for an investor, their spouse, and qualifying dependents.

Before you can start applying for an EB-5 visa, you need to ensure that you meet the requirements for the documentation you’ll need to submit on your journey to acquiring a green card. The purpose of the EB-5 Immigrant Investment Program is to provide investment to commercial enterprises and businesses to generate employment for U.S. workers.

The I-526E petition is the first step in becoming a permanent U.S. citizen through investment.

What is an I-526E Petition?

A Form I-526E, known as the Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, is one of the most important documents in the EB-5 visa application process. This form is used for investors who are working with a regional center to obtain their U.S. residency and citizenship. Alternatively, Form I-526 is used when an investor commits their capital to an individual business.

Filing your I-526E petition informs the USCIS that your investment will meet the necessary terms for your two-year conditional residency, including for job creation.

The I-526E fee has increased to $11,160 from April 1st, 2024. The over 200% fee increase is due to USCIS needing to cover the escalating costs of processing immigration petitions, including EB-5 visas. This fee is applied to all new I-526E filings. Following the increase in fees, early signs are pointing towards USCIS processing more petitions.

Under the terms of the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (known as RIA), future fee increases may be on the horizon for EB-5 visa applicants. Section 106 of RIA requires USCIS to perform a fee study on the level of fees required to process EB-5 petitions efficiently and promptly. 

Form I-526E vs. Form I-526

Form I-526 is one of the most important documents you’ll complete during the EB-5 visa process. It is submitted by direct investors, not immigrants investing with regional centers.

Foreign nationals who invest in regional centers use Form I-526E. The investment necessary for regional centers is lower than that for direct investment, costing $800,000 compared to $1,050,000.

What Investors Need for I-526E Petition Applications

Regional centers are projects located in targeted employment areas (TEAs) and require a minimum investment of $800,000. TEAs are typically rural areas or communities where the unemployment rate is 150% of the U.S. national average. Projects with an I-526 application form require a minimum investment of $1,050,000.

An I-526E petition shows that a qualifying EB-5 investment was made using lawfully sourced funds and that a credible business plan and viable employment creation opportunities exist.

Investors will need to provide personal information when completing their Form I-526E, including their net worth, employment history, and information on previous compliance with U.S. immigration laws. 

Regional Centers and I-526E Petitions

An investor’s I-526E petition will include information on the regional center in which they’re providing investment. The regional center must have submitted a project request or an I-956F form before an investor can submit their Form I-526E. The receipt number for the project’s I-956F form must be included on the investor’s I-526E petition, including evidence of administrative fees having been paid.

A regional center investor under the EB-5 investor program can use Form I-526E to notify USCIS of any amendments to establish ongoing eligibility if the regional center or commercial job enterprise they have invested in is terminated or debarred from the Regional Center Program.

The Role of an Attorney in an I-526E Petition

Although it’s possible to file an I-625E petition by yourself, it’s recommended that you work with a specialist immigration lawyer to navigate the process. Working with a lawyer can prevent delays and avoid your application being rejected for minor errors. 

You should start working with an immigration lawyer as early into your EB-5 visa application process as possible. Your immigration lawyer may be able to help you identify suitable investment opportunities and maintain the necessary paperwork that you’ll later need to submit to obtain permanent residency.

An immigration attorney will usually submit the Form I-526E on the investor’s behalf. USCIS may request additional evidence when they are processing your petition, which your lawyer should be able to provide. Your lawyer should show that your funds are legally sourced and that your investment meets the EB-5 visa program requirements.

Working with an immigration lawyer gives you extra peace of mind. They’ll ensure your applications are made on time and that the correct information is provided to avoid delays.

An immigration lawyer will carry out a variety of duties during an EB-5 investor application process, including:

  • Ensuring all forms are submitted to the appropriate departments and fees are paid in full.
  • Determining what projects are best suited for the investor’s level of risk and situation.
  • Maintaining financial documentation, including for source of funds, to be provided at different stages of the EB-5 visa application process.
  • Working closely with economists and business planners to evaluate the progress of the project, including determining job creation.
  • Ensuring the applicant remains in compliance with all USCIS regulations.
  • Addressing any identified problems in forms and resubmitting them in the event they are rejected by USCIS.
  • Navigating the U.S. citizenship process if their client wants to apply after five years of residency, including the two years of conditional permanent residency.

What USCIS Requires for I-526E Petitions

The USCIS requires extensive documentation when you submit your I-526E petition. You’ll need to provide proof of investment as evidence of having provided capital, such as loan certificates, bank statements, or escrow account records. If your investment is with a project located in a TEA, evidence of this status must be submitted with the Form I-526E.

One of the most difficult obstacles for EB-5 visa applicants is showing a lawful source of funds in their I-526E petition. USCIS is strict about its source-of-fund documentation and expects documents that provide accurate and clear information.

The source of funds for every EB-5 investor will vary, but the most popular funding sources include:

  • Real estate sales
  • Secured loans
  • Salary payments
  • Gifted capital

Your immigration lawyer will help you determine what documentation you need to provide to show that your source of funds is legitimate and legal.

Your Form 1-526E should also show that your investment will be used to create at least 10 jobs for qualifying works within two years from when your investment was made. You will need to submit a business plan that shows the business’ purpose, its operational plan, financial projections, and background information on the leadership team. You can further improve the credibility of your business plan by including a hiring timeline.

It’s worth noting that job creation is calculated differently for direct investment and regional center projects. A direct investment, requiring a minimum investment of $1,050,000, requires the creation of at least 10 full-time positions that must be sustained for at least two years. Alternatively, indirect and direct employment, including part-time jobs, are considered part of the job creation for investments in regional center projects.

Processing Times for I-526E Petitions

The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 has modified several policies involving regional centers to make the EB-5 visa even more appealing for foreign nationals seeking permanent residency through investment.

This legislation granted priority processing for investors in rural TEA projects, with over 30% of annual EB-5 visas reserved for these projects. Because of this legislation, the I-526E processing time has continued to reduce. It’s not uncommon now to see I-526E applications being approved within less than 12 months.

It’s difficult to provide an accurate estimate of the processing times for I-526E petitions as it’s up to Homeland Security and USCIS to evaluate your application. If you can demonstrate that you’ve met the requirements for an I-526 petition, your application should be approved, allowing you to apply for your EB-5 visas.

An EB-5 visa provides foreign nationals with lawful conditional permanent residency for two years. Within 90 days before the end of these two years, the investor must file a 1-829 to have the conditions of their permanent residency removed.

This petition requires them to show that the necessary job creation has occurred and that they have met the requirements of their EB-5 visa. It must also show that the investment was sustained in the project or business for the two-year conditional period.

When their I-829 petition is approved, an EB-5 investor, their spouse, and qualifying dependents will receive permanent residency, renewable every ten years. Many EB-5 investors then choose to apply for U.S. citizenship after they have spent five years residing in the United States, which can include the two years spent under their conditional permanent residency visa.

Start Your Journey to U.S. Citizenship Through Investment

EB-5 Insider simplifies your path to U.S. residency and citizenship through investment, working with foreign nationals internationally to streamline the application process. You can obtain a permanent U.S. green card for yourself, your spouse, and any unmarried children under 21 years of age for an investment of $800,000.

Start the process of applying for an EB-5 visa today, or contact our team for more information.

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