The 7 Steps of the EB-5 Immigration Process

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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 Visa Program was established in 1990 to drive investment into areas of the United States with high unemployment and to support job creation. This residency-through-investment program enables investors to obtain permanent residency (also known as a ‘green card’) by investing in qualifying programs to stimulate economic growth and preserve or generate jobs.

Securing permanent residency in the United States isn’t easy. An EB-5 investor visa enables high-net-worth individuals to streamline the process and secure a pathway to U.S. citizenship through investment. An investor can bring their spouse and qualifying dependents to the United States, including providing them with permanent residency.

There is a strict set of eligibility criteria you’ll have to meet to qualify for an EB-5 visa. We have an in-depth guide on the pre-investment steps you should go through as part of your EB-5 process. This follow-up guide focuses on the 7 immigration steps involved with the EB-5 process, including obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Immigration and the EB-5 Process

The immigration process for your EB-5 visa will start after you make your investment in a qualifying project. You’ll want to work with an immigration attorney to streamline the process and ensure that you’re including all the necessary information at each stage of the application process.

1. Filing Your I-526E Petition (and Concurrent Filing)

The first step to your EB-5 application is to file Form I-526 (for direct investment) or Form I-526E (for regional center investment). This application will demonstrate that you have invested in a qualifying business that will create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

Minimum $800,000 investment

You’ll have to show that the capital you’re investing was acquired by lawful meals. Potential sources of funds include employment earnings, inheritance gifts, loans, and income-generating assets, such as real estate. The capital must be invested in a new commercial enterprise (NCE). Investment in a non-commercial enterprise, such as purchasing real estate, does not qualify you for an EB-5 visa.

The minimum investment amount is set at $800,000 for an NCE in a targeted employment area (TEA) or $1,050,000 for a NEC in a non-TEA area. TEAs typically include projects in rural areas and areas with exceptionally high unemployment, which is 150% of the national U.S. unemployment rate. Infrastructure projects may also apply as a TEA if it is administered by a government entity and provides funding for maintaining, improving, or constructing a public works project. The capital you invest must be ‘at risk’ for at least two years after you make your investment.

Job Creation Requirement

As part of your I-526/I-526E petition, you must show proof that your EB-5 investment program will create 10 full-time jobs within two years of your investment. This step will also be necessary later in your immigration process when you are applying to have the conditions of your permanent residency removed. It is easier for regional center projects to fulfill this job creation requirement as they can also count indirect and induced jobs in their calculations. By comparison, direct investment projects can only count jobs created directly in the business.

It’s worth noting that at least 30% of EB-5 visas are not set aside for investors who commit funding for TEA projects. These EB-5 visas also get priority processing. 20% of EB-5 visas are for rural investment, 10% for high-unemployment areas, and 2% for infrastructure investment projects. These changes were made under the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA) to make the EB-5 visa more attractive with efficient processing.

If you are already rising in the U.S. with a non-immigration visa, you can take advantage of concurrent filing to process your Form I-526 and Form I-485 together to streamline the process.

2. Conditional Green Card

You’ll need to apply for Form I-485 to get your conditional permanent residency after your Form I-526 is approved. If you’re living in the United States, you can take advantage of concurrent filing to start this process after your Form I-526 has been received by USCIS.

Alternatively, you will have to undergo consular processing if you live outside the United States. You’ll need to submit a Form DS-260 and attend a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Before your interview, you’ll be required to undergo a medical examination by a consulate-approved doctor. Your results must remain sealed and presented during your interview.

This two-year conditional permanent residency status is known as a conditional green card. The investor and their eligible family members will be able to work and live in the United States.

3. Sustainment period

After you obtain a conditional permanent resident status, you’ll have to fulfill the requirements of your EB-5 visa, including for job creation. You’ll need to keep the required amount invested in your selected project to ensure your money remains at risk.

The USCIS published updated guidelines on provisions under the RIA and how they’ll be interpreted. One aspect of this was the EB-5 investment sustainment period, raising the potential that the need for redeployment of EB-5 investments may be eliminated. Before the RIA, the investments had to be sustained throughout an investor’s conditional residency period. The new guidance says that the RIA has removed this requirement and that investments are ‘expected to remain invested for at least two years.’

4. Filing Your I-829

Your conditional green card is valid for two years. Within a 90-day period before the expiration of your green card, you need to file a Form I-829 to remove the conditions of your permanent residency to become a lawful permanent U.S. resident. The investor, their spouse, and any dependent children under 21 years of age who are not married can all apply for permanent residency after the two-year period is up.

You’ll need to submit the Form I-829 during the final 90 days of your green card, as it will otherwise expire. Allowing your green card to expire may result in deportation. Your immigration lawyer should complete and file your Form I-829 to show that you have met all the conditions of the EB-5 visa program, including job creation.

Your permanent resident card is valid for 10 years and renewable. EB-5 investors and their families can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years of residency. You can count the two years of your conditional permanent residency towards this five-year time frame.

The most important factor to prove is that the 10 full-time positions have been created and sustained for the duration of the two-year period. You’ll need to provide documentation, such as payroll documents and employment contracts, to prove this.

For regional center projects, you can count indirect and induced jobs towards the requirement for 10 full-time jobs. You’ll need to work with an economist or a financial professional to get a full picture of the jobs created from your investment. The jobs must be full-time positions, with at least 35 working hours per week, and filled by qualifying U.S. workers. These jobs must last a minimum of two years, with evidence to support this.

The I-829 petition’s filing fee is $9,525, which increased in April 2024. You’ll also have to pay an additional $85 for biometrics.

5. Return of Capital Investment

The policy update from USCIS in October 2023 means that investors are no longer required to keep their investments at risk throughout the full conditional residency period. The current minimum sustainment period for capital investment is 2 years. However, there is still ongoing litigation and debate around this topic.

Within 90 days of the end of the investor’s conditional residency period, they will file a Form I-829 to apply for permanent resident status. It’s worth noting that some regional centers may not permit repayment of initial investment until the I-829 petition is approved. When deciding which project center to work with, you’ll want to consider a project’s exit strategy, which should be found in its offering document.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll make a return on your investment, as this depends on EB-5 regulations and the success of the project. It’s important to do your due diligence during the pre-investment stage to determine whether a project has the right risk for your financial situation.

Most EB-5 programs have minimal returns, usually around 1%. The real attraction of this investment program is the indirect return on the investment, most notably the green card. A green card enables you to live, work, and travel freely around the United States and start a business in one of the most prosperous economies in the world.

6. Receiving Permanent Residency (PRC)

Once an investor has had their form I-829 approved, they’ll become a legal permanent resident (LPR). A green card is issued for 10 years and renewable. To maintain their LPR status, an EB-5 investor must show proof that they are setting down roots in the United States and trying to maintain their status.

It’s not recommended to leave the country for more than six months at any time, as this may create the impression that you do not intend to permanently reside in the United States.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor program is one of the most efficient routes for obtaining permanent residence status with a shorter timeframe than other visa applications. Green card holders can settle anywhere in the United States, but they are limited in their visa-free and visa-on-arrival access.

If you intend to travel frequently out of the United States for extended periods, it’s recommended to have documents to prove that you intend to return and live in the United States.

Such documentation can include:

  • Renting an apartment or property in your name
  • Getting a Social Security number
  • Opening a U.S. bank account
  • Getting a credit card with a U.S. provider
  • Get a U.S. driving license
  • Becoming a member of a local club or organization
  • Filing tax returns

We recommend maintaining detailed records and providing copies for your immigration attorney to provide to USCIS if the need arises. If you intend to be out of the United States for more than 180 days continuously, you can file for a re-entry permit before you leave. A re-entry permit allows you to remain outside the United States for up to two years without abandoning your permanent residence status.

7. Obtaining U.S. Citizenship

Permanent residency is a crucial step towards obtaining U.S. citizenship through investment. After you receive your green card, you should spend at least 180 days per year in the United States for 5 years before applying for U.S. citizenship. After you have held a green card for five years, you may apply for U.S. citizenship. This five-year timeline also includes the two years you will have spent as a conditional permanent resident.

Obtaining U.S. citizenship is often the end goal for EB-5 investors, with the program providing one of the fastest ways to become a United States citizen. You’ll only be required to show that you can read, write, and speak a basic level of English and complete a civics test.

Once you’ve become a U.S. citizen, you can apply for your passport and have the right to vote in all elections, including federal and local. Your children will automatically become U.S. citizens, and you can apply for a green card to bring your relatives to the United States. You’ll also gain full access to federal benefits, including college assistance. U.S. citizens are available to run for elected office and apply for jobs in the U.S. government.

Become a U.S. Residence Through Investment with an EB-5 Visa

EB-5 Insider simplifies your path to U.S. residency through investment. The EB-5 visa is the fastest route for foreigners seeking U.S. permanent residency and citizenship through investment, but it can be a complicated process. We’re here to help you navigate through the EB-5 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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