Form I-5262024-01-11T12:04:13+00:00

Form I-526: Essential Guide to the Immigrant Investor Visa Process

Form I-526, officially known as the Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor, is a critical document used by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is the initial step for immigrant investors seeking a green card through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Investors use the form to demonstrate their eligibility by providing detailed information about the investment and the commercial enterprise associated with their application.
The EB-5 program, designed to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment, sets certain eligibility criteria for the investor, the investment, and the project receiving the investment. Form I-526 requires evidence of establishing a new commercial enterprise, the lawful source of investment funds, and a plan to create the requisite number of jobs for U.S. workers. The form, therefore, plays a vital role in verifying the legitimacy of the investor’s intentions and the viability of the business venture.

Eligibility Requirements

To petition for the U.S. EB-5 visa as an immigrant investor using Form I-526, the investor must meet specific criteria regarding their investment, targeted areas for the investment, job creation, and the amount of capital invested.

Immigrant Investor Qualifications

An immigrant investor must demonstrate that they have invested or are in the process of making a significant investment in a new commercial enterprise. The individual should have the intention and ability to engage in managerial or policy-making roles within this enterprise.

Targeted Employment Area Designation

Targeted Employment Area (TEA) investments may qualify for a reduced investment threshold. A TEA can be either:

  • A rural area: An area outside a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or outside the boundary of any city with a population of 20,000 or more.
  • An area experiencing high unemployment: At least 150% of the national average rate.

Job Creation Criteria

The new commercial enterprise must create or preserve at least ten full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers. These jobs must be created within two years following the investor’s admission to the United States as a Conditional Permanent Resident.

Capital Investment Requirements

The minimum invested capital required for the EB-5 visa program is generally $1,050,000. However, for investments in a TEA, the minimum amount is reduced to $800,000. These investment amounts are subject to adjustment every five years to account for inflation.
Note: The capital must be at risk to generate a return on the investment, and the investor must show evidence of the source of the capital to prove it was obtained through lawful means.

Form I-526 Filing Process

The filing process for Form I-526, the Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, requires careful preparation and attention to detail to ensure a successful application.

Filling Out the Form

Form I-526 must be completed with accurate information about the investor’s personal details, investment, and the targeted employment area. It is crucial to type or print in black ink and follow all provided instructions. Every required field should be filled out, and the applicant should carefully check that no mistakes are made to avoid processing delays.

Gathering Supporting Documentation

Applicants must assemble a comprehensive portfolio of supporting documents that validate the claims made in the petition. This typically includes:

  • Proof of Investment: Documentation demonstrating that the investor has risked the required capital to generate a return.
  • Source of Funds: Clear evidence showing the lawful source of the investment capital.
  • Business Plan: A detailed plan showing how the investment will create at least ten full-time jobs for qualifying employees.

Submitting the Application

Once the form and supporting documentation are ready, the applicant must submit these to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As per the provided information, the current filing fee should be included with the application, payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Submission can be done via mail to the appropriate USCIS Service Center.

After Submission Follow-Up

After the Form I-526 is submitted, the applicant should receive a notice of receipt from the USCIS. They must monitor the progress of their application and be prepared to respond to any requests for additional evidence or attend interviews if required. Applicants can track their case status using the USCIS online case status tool.

Investment Opportunities

The Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, opens two main avenues for foreign nationals seeking investment opportunities in the United States: Direct Investment and Regional Center Projects.

Direct Investment

Direct Investment involves the foreign investor directly managing the investment enterprise. For eligibility, the enterprise must fulfill the following specific criteria:

  • Minimum Investment: The investor must invest a minimum of $1.8 million, or $900,000, in a targeted employment area (TEA).
  • Job Creation: The investment must create at least ten full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

Regional Center Projects

Regional Center Projects allow investors to invest in USCIS-approved economic units known as Regional Centers. Investors can also fill out the Form-I-526e, These investments must adhere to the following:

  • Investment Amount: Similar to Direct Investment, the same minimum investment applies depending on the project’s location.
  • Indirect Job Creation: Investment through Regional Centers can count both direct and indirect job creation towards the investor’s job creation requirement.

Each investment route provides a pathway for immigrants to contribute to the U.S. economy while potentially gaining permanent resident status.

Legal Considerations

The Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, requires meticulous adherence to immigration and securities laws. Applicants must ensure compliance with these legal frameworks to maintain the integrity of their petition.

Immigration Lawyer Advice

Engaging with a qualified immigration lawyer is crucial when filing Form I-526. They guide the intricate requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), particularly section 203(b)(5). An immigration lawyer can advise on the following:

  • Eligibility Criteria: Ensuring the investor meets the investment amount requirements and that the investment is in a qualifying commercial enterprise.
  • Documentation: Assisting with properly compiling evidence to demonstrate the legitimacy of the new commercial enterprise and the source of investment funds.

Securities Laws Compliance

Securities law compliance is a pivotal aspect of the EB-5 investment process. Investors should be aware of the following:

  • Regulations: Investments must comply with federal and, when applicable, state securities regulations.
  • Offering Documents: Creating thorough and transparent offering documents to avoid misrepresentation.
  • Investor Qualifications: Ensuring investors qualify under the appropriate investor category, such as an accredited investor, as defined by securities laws.

Adjustment of Status

When an individual files Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, and is currently in the United States, they can seek lawful permanent resident status without leaving the country. This process is known as adjustment of status, which can lead to obtaining a Green Card.

Application for a Green Card

Once Form I-526 is approved, the petitioner may apply for a Green Card through Form I-485 – Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This step is vital for the investor to become a permanent resident in the United States legally. The applicant must ensure that an immigrant visa number is available before filing Form I-485; the filing can be concurrent with Form I-526 if a visa is immediately available.

Consular Processing

If the investor is outside the United States or prefers to undergo the immigration process from their home country, consular processing is the alternative path. After the approval of Form I-526, the applicant must wait for notification from the National Visa Center to schedule an interview at a U.S. consulate. This procedure culminates in issuing an immigrant visa if the interview is successful, allowing the investor to travel to the United States and be admitted as a lawful permanent resident.

Potential Challenges and Resolutions

In navigating Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor, applicants may encounter specific hurdles such as denials, appeals, and Requests for Evidence (RFE). Understanding and preparing for these challenges is crucial to the application process.

Denials and Appeals

Applicants receiving a denial for their Form I-526 should first review the denial notice for the specific reasons provided by USCIS. Options after a denial may include:

  • Filing a Motion to Reopen or Reconsider: This is submitted on Form I-290B within 33 days of the denial, and applicants must prove that the decision was based on an incorrect application of the law or policy.
  • Appealing to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO): If applicable, an appeal must be filed within 30 days of the denial notice. Applicants need to include new or additional evidence that addresses the reasons for denial.

Request for Evidence (RFE) Response

When USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE) for Form I-526, it indicates that the application requires further information. Applicants should:

  • Respond by the deadline: Failure to do so results in a denial or delay. USCIS typically allows 87 days for a response.
  • Be thorough: Include all requested documentation and evidence, clearly labeling and organizing it to address each point outlined in the RFE.
  • Seek legal advice: An immigration attorney can provide guidance to address all RFE aspects adequately.

Applicants’ prompt and careful attention to RFEs increases their chances of successfully resolving their Form I-526 petitions.

Form I-526 Updates

This section provides the latest information on policy changes and processing times concerning Form I-526, which is essential for stakeholders to stay informed on USCIS developments.

Policy Changes

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented a significant update to the visa availability approach for Form I-526, effective July 18, 2023. This update allows USCIS to more efficiently manage its inventory of Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor, particularly concerning petitions under the EB-5 visa program. Specifically, petitions are now organized by New Commercial Enterprise (NCE) with filing dates on or before November 30, 2019, which are assigned to the third queue.

Processing Times

The USCIS last reviewed the Form I-526 processing times on October 31, 2023. Processing times may vary based on several factors, including changes in application volumes and resource allocations. Applicants are typically assigned to officers on a first-in, first-out basis; however, the new visa availability approach may also influence timelines. Applicants are advised to check the USCIS website or contact the relevant USCIS office for the most current processing timeframes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Form I-526?2024-01-08T07:18:19+00:00

Form I-526, known as the Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, is used by foreign investors to petition for status as an immigrant to the United States under section 203(b)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Who may file Form I-526?2024-01-08T07:19:29+00:00

An individual investor seeking to immigrate to the U.S. based on an investment can file Form I-526. If the investment is pooled, they must file Form I-526E instead.

  • When should Form I-526 be filed?
    • It must be filed as the first step in the EB-5 visa process after the required capital is invested in a qualifying EB-5 project.
What is the filing fee for Form I-526?2024-01-08T07:21:16+00:00
As of 2021, the filing fee is reported to be $3,675 per applicant.
How can one submit Form I-526?2024-01-08T07:22:13+00:00
It can be submitted online through the USCIS e-filing system or by mail. When submitting by mail, the applicant must include all required documents.
What action should be taken if there are updates post-submission?2024-01-08T07:30:01+00:00

Any changes or additional information should be promptly communicated to USCIS to avoid delays in processing.

Is personal information required on Form I-526?2024-01-10T13:23:06+00:00

Yes, applicants must provide their full name, Alien Registration Number (A-Number), if any, U.S. Social Security Number, if any, and USCIS Online Account Number, if any.

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