The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is an opportunity for foreign nationals to invest in the American economy in exchange for permanent residency. On a longer timeline, it can also offer a path to citizenship, if all of the eligibility requirements are met.

There are four main steps to obtaining an EB-5 visa. You’ll need to follow them to the letter, so we strongly recommend having an attorney by your side to make sure your application doesn’t get rejected due to an avoidable error.

Let’s take a look at what it takes to apply for an EB-5 foreign investor visa.

Step 1: Find an EB-5 approved project

As an EB-5 visa applicant, you cannot invest in just any business. In fact, there are strict rules regarding what types of projects are eligible for this type of funding. The safest route to take is through a Regional Center, which is an organization approved and regulated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to drive economic growth in a specific region.

Regional Centers have a project (or projects) under their umbrella that are eligible to receive foreign investment. These businesses are known as New Commercial Enterprises (NCE’s). An NCE can be either public, private, or a mix of both, and collects capital from a number of investors in order to get off the ground. For a complete listing of approved Regional Centers by state, click here.

But be careful in your selection, since not all Regional Centers or investment projects have positive track records. Selecting the right project for you is just as crucial as the application itself.

Step 2: Investment and I-526 petition

Once you’ve selected an EB-5 approved project, you will need to dispense the necessary funds. The required investment amount will either be $900,000 or $1,800,000, depending on the location of your NCE. There are two types of Targeted Employment Areas (TEA) that can lower your required investment capital from $1,800,000 to $900,000: rural TEA’s and high unemployment TEA’s. You can learn more about TEA’s in our previous article about EB-5 basics.

Step 3: Two-year conditional permanent residency

Once USCIS approves your I-526 petition, you can apply to receive your conditional permanent residency. If you already have lawful status in the United States under a different immigration visa, you will need to file Form I-485 (downloadable here) to change your status to “conditional permanent resident.” If you do not yet have lawful status, you will need to apply for an immigrant visa using Form DS-260 (available online) either through a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country.

On average, it takes 6 to 12 months to receive conditional PR if you are approved. You will be subject to certain physical presence requirements for the duration of your conditional permanent residency: if you intend to remain outside of the United States for one year, you will need to obtain a re-entry permit before leaving the country

Step 4. Removing PR conditions and I-829 petition

At the end of your two-year conditional PR, you can apply to become an unconditional permanent resident if you have met all of the EB-5 program’s conditions. To do so, you will need to file an I-829 petition with USCIS at least 90 days before the two-year anniversary of receiving your conditional PR.

While you are waiting to hear back from the authorities, your status as a conditional permanent resident will be extended, so you can remain in the country and continue conducting business. Processing times for a green card can range from 21 months to 45 months.

If and when your petition is approved, you, your spouse, and any unmarried children under 21 will be issued a renewable green card that is valid for 10 years. You will be able to apply for citizenship on the five-year anniversary of receiving your conditional PR.

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