Form I-526E Application Process: Understanding the New Investor Visa Program

The Form I-526E, known as the Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, serves applicants in the EB-5 visa category who are investing in projects affiliated with USCIS-designated Regional Centers. This form is a critical step in the process for immigrant investors seeking to realize permanent residency in the United States through their investment. It allows investors to demonstrate they are meeting the necessary capital investment amounts and job creation requirements stipulated by the EB-5 program, which are central to obtaining their investor visa.
Due to the intricate nature of investments and the ever-changing landscape of regional centers, the I-526E form also provides a pathway for investors to report any amendments that might affect their ongoing eligibility. For example, if the regional center or new commercial enterprise changes in a manner that impacts the original investment, investors must update USCIS using this form.
Additionally, clarity is provided on the conditions under which concurrent filing of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is allowed with Form I-526E. This aspect significantly affects investors looking to adjust their status to that of a permanent resident while in the United States. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) keeps applicants informed on the precise eligibility requirements to ensure a smooth and reliable immigration process for potential investors.

Overview of Form I-526E

Form I-526E, known as the Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, is a document utilized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is specifically designed for foreign nationals seeking to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program through investments associated with USCIS-approved regional centers.

The key purpose of Form I-526E is to demonstrate:

  • That the investor has invested or is actively in the process of investing the required capital into a new commercial enterprise.
  • The invested capital is deemed to be at risk to generate a return on the investment.
  • The enterprise is located within an approved regional center.
  • The investment will lead to the creation or preservation of 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers.

Investment Thresholds:

  • The minimum investment amount is typically $1 million. However, for Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs), the requirement is reduced to $500,000.

Amendment Reporting:

  • Should there be material changes, investors can use this form to report amendments vital for maintaining eligibility.

Validity and Expiration:

  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Control Number for Form I-526E is 1615-0026, with an expiration date of 07/31/2025.

Representation:

  • If represented by an attorney or a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)-accredited representative, Form G-28 should be attached.

It’s critical for applicants to ensure that all requirements, as stipulated by the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, are fulfilled when submitting Form I-526E. This includes adhering to the revised eligibility and filing requirements integral to the EB-5 program.

Eligibility Requirements

The Form I-526E is intended for immigrant investors seeking to participate in the EB-5 Regional Center Program. Successful applicants must meet certain eligibility criteria which relate to the investor’s status, the nature of the enterprise they invest in, the job creation potential of their investment, and the size and source of the investment itself.

Qualifying Immigrant Investor

A qualifying immigrant investor must be an individual who has invested or is actively in the process of investing in a new commercial enterprise. They must be looking to engage in a managerial role within the enterprise, either through day-to-day managerial control or through policy formation.

New Commercial Enterprise

The new commercial enterprise must:

  • Be for-profit and lawfully operating within the United States.
  • Involve the investment of the required amount of at-risk capital.
  • Be formed after November 29, 1990, or, if formed earlier, be restructured or expanded to achieve a 40% increase in net worth or number of employees.

Job Creation Requirements

The investment must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers. These jobs must be created within two years after the investor has obtained conditional permanent residence. The jobs can either be directly within the new commercial enterprise, or indirectly through revenues generated from increased exports, improved regional productivity, or other economic impacts.

Capital Investment Criteria

The capital required for investment is subject to minimum qualifying amounts, which vary by the targeted employment area. Invested capital must be:

  • Valued in U.S. dollars and invested into the enterprise.
  • At risk to generate a return on the capital placed at risk.
  • Sourced through lawful means, which the investor must establish.

Each subsection highlights a critical component of the eligibility requirements for the Form I-526E regional center investor petition. An individual’s application must align with the criteria described to be considered under the EB-5 Regional Center Program.

Form I-526E Filing Process

The Form I-526E filing process is a critical step for foreign nationals seeking to invest in a regional center project and acquire U.S. residency through the EB-5 visa program. This process requires careful attention to detail, including the payment of filing fees, submission of adequate supporting documentation, adherence to filing tips, and understanding of processing timeframes.

Filing Fee Information

As of the latest data, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires a filing fee for Form I-526E. This fee is mandatory for all investors to process the investors need to checkvestors to check the USCIS website or official communications for the most current fee structure, as fees may adjust periodically.

Supporting Documentation

To properly file Form I-526E, investors must submit:

  • Evidence of the investment: Proof of funds invested or actively in the process of investing into a new commercial enterprise associated with an approved regional center.
  • Proof of job creation: Documentation that shows the investment will create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers.
  • Legal documents: Any agreements, business plans, or other legal forms that illustrate the investor’s involvement in the enterprise.

Each document must be complete and accurately support the petition’s claims for eligibility and compliance.

Filing Tips

When filing Form I-526E, it is essential to:

  1. Ensure all sections of the form are completed.
  2. Provide clear and precise information throughout the form.
  3. Respond promptly to any Requests for Evidence (RFEs) from USCIS.
  4. Keep copies of all documents for personal records.

Observing these tips can potentially result in a smoother processing of the petition.

Processing Timeframes

The processing times for Form I-526E applications can vary greatly, ranging from one to three years or more. These timeframes can fluctuate due to various factors, such as application volume or changes in immigration policy. Applicants can check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date processing times for Form I-526E.

Priority Dates and Visa Availability

For Form I-526E, which is the Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) follows a system of priority dates to manage the applications efficiently. The priority date is crucial as it determines an investor’s place in the queue for an immigrant visa.

Here is how the priority dates and visa availability affect the Form I-526E processing:

  • Visa Bulletin: The Department of State (DOS) publishes a monthly Visa Bulletinguidesdes guidance for issuing visas at U.S. Consulates and Embassies and is utilized by the USCIS to decide when they can accept Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status for applicants.
  • Visa Availability Approach: USCIS assigns petitions based on this approach. It prioritizes investors who have an available visa or are expected to have one soon, ensuring a systematic and fair allocation of visas.
  • Factors Influencing Availability: The visa availability is influenced by several factors, including per-country limits, the total number of visas allocated annually, and the number of applicants from each country.

Investors should regularly check the Visa Bulletin to understand the current state of visa availability for their priority date. Additionally, for investors to adjust their status using Form I-485, their priority date must be current, making the monitoring of the Visa Bulletin essential for the planning and timing of their applications.

Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing

When an individual with an approved Form I-526E, which signifies participation in the EB-5 Regional Center Program, seeks to become a lawful permanent resident, they have two primary pathways available: Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing. Each pathway serves specific circumstances based on the applicant’s location and status.

Adjustment of Status Guidance

Adjustment of Status is an option for those who are already present in the United States. It allows them to become permanent residents without needing to return to their home country for visa processing. An individual must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, following the approval of Form I-526E.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Presence in the U.S
  • Approved Form I-526E
  • No visa ineligibility grounds

Consular Processing Steps

Consular Processing is the procedure for individuals outside the United States or those preferring to have their immigrant visas processed at a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. The process involves a series of steps that the investor must carefully follow.

Required Steps:

  1. Get Form I-526E approved.
  2. Wait for notification from the National Visa Center (NVC).
  3. Submit visa application and supporting documents.
  4. Attend visa interview at U.S. consulate or embassy.
  5. Receive immigrant visa to enter the U.S.

In both processes, the applicant is working towards the same goal: U.S. permanent resident status. Each track has its set of requirements and procedures, and the choice between the two will depend on the investor’s location and personal circumstances.

Investment Sustainment Period

The Investment Sustainment Period refers to the duration during which an EB-5 investor must maintain their capital at risk to qualify for a visa through the Immigrant Petition by Regional Center, denoted by Form I-526E. This period plays a pivotal role in assessing eligibility for an EB-5 visa.

Key Aspects of the Investment Sustainment Period:

  • The investment must be sustained throughout the immigrant’s conditional residency period to satisfy United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requirements.
  • USCIS requires that if an investor filed an I-526 or I-526E petition on or after March 15, 2022, the investment is expected to remain at risk for the entire sustainment period.
  • The standard sustainment period is typically two years, but recent guidance, as of October 2023, may alter these specifics, signaling the importance of staying current with USCIS policy updates.

Key Dates:

  • March 15, 2022, : This date marks when updated policies regarding the sustainment period came into effect.
  • July 31, 2025, : The expiration date for Form I-526E, indicating potential changes or renewals that could impact future investment sustainment regulations.

Investors should note that maintaining their investment beyond the point of filing is crucial, even if the required two-year investment period concludes after the filing of their Form I-526 or I-526E. This requirement ensures the investment remains at risk and the investor’s commitment to the EB-5 program is consistent with regulatory expectations.

Material Change Doctrine

The Material Change Doctrine relates to adjustments in the approved plans for a business or project associated with an investor’s visa petition, specifically within the context of the EB-5 program. Under this doctrine, substantial changes to the original business plan or project can impact an investor’s petition.

Key Points:

  • Before I-526E Approval: Material changes to the business plan or project after the filing of Form I-526E but before its approval can lead to the denial of the petition.
  • After I-526E Approval: A material change after the approval of Form I-526E can necessitate the filing of a new petition.

Examples of Material Changes:

  • Changes in the business plan that affect the project’s scope or its organizational structure.
  • Alterations in job creation projections that fall below the required number for the EB-5 visa qualification.
  • Shifts in the investment structure or the reallocation of investment capital that departs from the original proposal.

Investors and regional centers must tread carefully to ensure compliance with the strict guidelines of the Material Change Doctrine to avoid jeopardizing the immigration process for foreign investors. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) maintains the discretion to determine what constitutes a material change, and such determinations are critical for the successful adjudication of Form I-526E petitions.

Form I-526E Adjudication

The adjudication of Form I-526E by USCIS involves a detailed review process where the investor’s eligibility under the EB-5 program is determined. This process includes the issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFE) or Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID) when necessary, followed by the potential for appeals and motions if the petition is initially denied.

Requests for Evidence and Notice of Intent to Deny

During the adjudication process, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) if the petition lacks certain documentation or needs further clarification. Responding accurately and promptly to an RFE is crucial for the continuation of the adjudication process. Similarly, a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) indicates potential disqualification factors, and the applicant is allowed to provide additional evidence to overcome the concerns raised by USCIS.

Appeals and Motions

If an investor’s Form I-526E is denied, they have the option to initiate an appeal or a motion. An appeal is filed with the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), whereas a motion can be one of two types: a Motion to Reopen, which is based on presenting new facts, or a Motion to Reconsider, based on establishing that the decision was incorrect based on the provided evidence. The investor must follow the proper procedures and timelines when seeking appellate review.

Post-Approval Procedures

After approval of Form I-526E, successful applicants enter a critical phase where they must navigate the steps toward conditional and then permanent residency.

Conditional Permanent Residency

Upon approval of the I-526E petition, investors are granted Conditional Permanent Residency. They receive a Green Card valid for two years. This status allows the investor, along with their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years, to live and work in the United States. They must enter the United States within the validity period of their immigrant visa.

Removing Conditions on Permanent Residency

Before the two-year conditional period ends, investors must file Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. This step is crucial as it is required to convert their conditional status to permanent residency. The USCIS demands evidence that the investment has been sustained and has created the required number of jobs post-approval of the I-526E petition. Investors typically have a 90-day window before the conditional Green Card expires to file this form.

Legal Considerations

When filing Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, particular attention needs to be paid to adhering to securities laws and avoiding immigration fraud. These two aspects are vital for the integrity and success of an investor’s immigration petition.

Securities Laws Compliance

Form I-526E, associated with the EB-5 Regional Center Program, requires investors to comply with U.S. securities laws. Regulations mandate that regional center investments must adhere to the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Each investor must be provided with adequate information about the investment, and Regional Centers themselves are subject to securities regulations regarding the offering of investment opportunities.

Key Compliance Points:

  • Full disclosure of the investment’s risks and returns.
  • Registration or exemption filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
  • Compliance with state securities laws where the investment is offered.

Immigration Fraud and Misrepresentation

It’s imperative that investors and Regional Centers maintain the highest level of integrity, ensuring all information provided on Form I-526E is accurate and truthful. Misrepresentation or fraud in the immigration process can lead to severe penalties, including visa denial, forfeiture of invested funds, and legal actions.

Consequences of Fraud:

  • Denial of the immigrant petition.
  • Legal repercussions for the offending party.
  • Potential debarment from future immigration benefits.

Useful Resources and Contact Information

When seeking information or guidance on Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, the following resources are invaluable:

  • USCIS Official Website: For the most up-to-date forms and instructions, visit USCIS Forms.
  • Form I-526E Instructions: Detailed filing instructions are available on the USCIS I-526E page.
Resource Contact Information
USCIS Customer Service 1-800-375-5283
USCIS Contact Center uscis.gov/contactcenter
USCIS Local Offices Find a local office

For queries related to a specific case, the USCIS online account is a helpful tool to check case status and submit inquiries. They also provide a live chat feature named Emma, accessible through their website, which can answer general questions.

Investors who require legal assistance with their petition or the EB-5 program may seek a licensed immigration attorney. It is essential to ensure the attorney is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), by verifying through the AILA website.

For comprehensive guides on the EB-5 investment process and Form I-526E, third-party websites such as EB5 Visa Investments offer explanatory materials. However, always cross-reference information with official USCIS resources to ensure accuracy.

For any amendments or reporting issues related to terminated or debarred regional centers, investors must consult the latest USCIS policy and procedure updates or seek professional legal counsel.