The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program offers an exciting opportunity to foreign nationals who are seeking permanent resident status in the United States. The program allows applicants to become eligible for a U.S. green card in exchange for a qualifying investment in an EB-5 project. Although the program has helped thousands of foreign nationals immigrate to the United States, the EB-5 process can be lengthy, sometimes leaving investors waiting longer than two years for their I-526 petition to be adjudicated.
Fortunately, there is an option that could significantly speed up the process. While it is not applicable to every EB-5 project, some projects may qualify for expedited status. If a project receives expedited status, an investor’s I-526 petition could be adjudicated in as little as four to ten months. For a project to qualify for expedited status, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must decide that it meets urgent humanitarian needs or is significantly important to the U.S. government.
How to Obtain Expedited Status
The process of receiving expedited designation can be fairly complex. The request for expedited EB-5 project status must be submitted as an I-924 petition and must include many supporting documents.
The project’s owner must obtain a letter from a high-ranking government official that outlines the benefits that the project offers to the United States. Along with this letter, the project owner should submit information that explains the importance of the project to the U.S. government and why the project needs quick access to the EB-5 investment capital. Additionally, the owner should submit a letter with a compelling argument for expedited status, credible evidence that supports the argument, and a completed I-526 petition template to demonstrate exemplar status.
Other Factors EB-5 Investors Should Be Aware Of
Although an expedited EB-5 project can lead to a quicker I-526 adjudication process, there are other factors that prospective investors should consider before seeking out an expedited project. Those planning an EB-5 investment should keep in mind that this expedited process does not guarantee an available EB-5 visa. This means that investors from backlogged countries will still experience long waiting periods before receiving their U.S. green card.
Furthermore, the EB-5 projects that receive expedited status often have higher levels of risk for the investors. Because of this, many investors would rather deal with a slower EB-5 process and take on less financial and immigration risk.
Expedited status speeds up the I-526 adjudication process, but it does not increase the chance of approval. All I-526 petitions are carefully examined by USCIS when being adjudicated, so there is no benefit to the expedited status besides the decreased wait time. For this reason, investors should conduct thorough research to determine if investing in an expedited project is what is best for their situation and goals.
Financial Risk in Expedited Projects
When planning an EB5 investment, the prospective investor should carefully examine the potential EB-5 project to determine the amount of financial risk. If the EB-5 investment capital makes up a large percentage of the overall funding for the project and is used to fund construction or operational activities, then the capital takes on a high risk. However, if the EB-5 capital makes up a small percentage of the project’s funding, there is less risk for the EB-5 investor.
Projects are granted expedited status because of the crucial need for EB-5 capital for the success of the project. This means that EB-5 capital takes on a much higher risk than in a non-expedited project. Investors who choose to pursue this route should make sure their EB5 investment is involved with tangible assets for some extra security.
Investors should also research possible exit strategies. It is important for investors to know how and when they expect their investment capital to be paid back to them. Some projects offer completion guaranties. Investors should evaluate what level of risk they are comfortable with and if a completion guarantee is something they require. Investors should also make sure that their EB-5 investment capital will be returned if their I-526 petition is denied.
Immigration Risk in Expedited Projects
Those looking to pursue an EB5 investment should also carefully evaluate the potential immigration risk. For many investors, immigration risk is much more important than financial risk.
All EB-5 investors, whether their project is expedited or not, must prove that their investment led to the creation of 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. workers. If they cannot meet this EB-5 eligibility requirement, they will not be eligible for a U.S. green card and their chance at a future in the U.S. could be ruined.
EB-5 investors should analyze the business plan and projected job creation of their chosen EB-5 project. They should research the number of projected new jobs per EB-5 investor, and what type of jobs they are. If the estimated number of jobs per investor is close to 10, the project has a high immigration risk. For the lowest amount of immigration risk, investors should look for projects that project a much higher job creation than is needed for each EB-5 investor.
Investors should also research the project developer and sponsor to ensure that they have a good reputation and are taking the necessary steps to make sure the project succeeds. If the developer does not have sufficient funding or has not received all the necessary licenses and approvals, the project could be in jeopardy, making it risky for the EB-5 investor.
If the investor is choosing to invest through a regional center, they must conduct thorough research on the regional center as well. Because many regional centers are being terminated, the investor should make sure the regional center has a solid track record and a good history of approved I-526 and I-829 petitions.
When planning to invest in any EB-5 project, potential investors should collaborate with an experienced EB-5 immigration attorney to make sure all their questions are answered. An experienced immigration attorney can help investors decide what course of action is best for their immigration goals, timeline, and individual situation. While an expedited EB-5 project may speed up the I-526 adjudication process, the additional financial and immigration risk may be more than most investors want to tolerate.