I 526 processing time. EB-5 Investor Receives I-526E Approval. Navigating the Crucial I-526E Petition: Your Gateway to a U.S. Green Card.

Filing Form I-526E is a pivotal step for EB-5 investors seeking a U.S. Green Card through a regional center project. To conquer this challenge and secure your future, mastering the intricacies of the I-526E and gathering the required evidence is essential.

last updated Friday, May 10, 2024
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John Burson     Subscribe


Key Takeaways: 

  • Form I-526E
    The crucial step for EB-5 investor I-526E approval in regional center projects. It proves investment, legal source of funds, and job creation plan.
  • Lawful Source of Funds
    High evidentiary standards. Trace funds accurately. Attorney guidance is crucial.
  • Minimum Investment Amount
    The minimum investment is $800,000 in targeted employment areas (TEAs) and $1,050,000 in other projects, with TEAs defined by rural status or having an unemployment rate of 150% of the national average.
  • Evidence for I-526E
    Investors must provide proof of their investment in an NCE, demonstrate a lawful source of funds, and present a credible business plan for job creation, often with the help of an immigration attorney.
  • Job Creation Requirements
    Direct investments require creating W-2 positions, while regional center projects can count indirect and induced jobs. Investors must actively participate in managing their NCEs.
  • Processing Times
    USCIS processing times for Form I-526E have historically varied, with potential improvement under the Biden administration and the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, aiming to increase transparency and efficiency. Form I-526E processing times are lengthy (up to 52.5 months) but may decrease with pandemic recovery and new leadership.
  • Form I-526E Amendments
    If an NCE or regional center faces termination, investors can file amendments to invest in a different project or affiliate with another regional center.

Petition I-526E or I-526: The First Step Toward An EB-5 Green Card

Securing approval for Form I-526E necessitates thorough research, selecting a USCIS-compliant EB-5 offering, and submitting comprehensive evidence. This pivotal step marks the initial move for foreign nationals aspiring to attain U.S. permanent resident status.

For those considering immigration through the EB-5 visa, contacting paperfree is recommended for top-notch guidance in identifying a secure offering and initiating the I-526E petition.

With a track record of assisting over 1,900 families in navigating the EB-5 immigration system EB-5 visa I-526E success stories, paperfree partners boast an approval rate for I-526 petitions in our high-quality projects.

Steps To Take Before Submitting the I-526E Petition

The core of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is granting Green Cards to foreign nationals who make eligible investments in U.S. businesses, known as new commercial enterprises (NCEs), with a requirement to generate a minimum of 10 jobs per investor. 

Before submitting Form I 526E, individuals must have already invested in an NCE. An NCE is described as a for-profit enterprise established after November 29, 1990, and businesses across various industries can qualify for EB-5 funding.

Filing Form I 526 is a pivotal step for EB-5 investors seeking a U.S. Green Card through a regional center project. This document showcases your qualifying investment and unlocks your path to a conditional two-year residency. To conquer this challenge and secure your future, mastering the intricacies of the I-526E approval process for EB-5 investors and gathering the required evidence is essential.

This guide sheds the light on each section of the petition, empowering you to:

  1. Demonstrate a compliant investment.
    Prove your capital injection into the NCE (New Commercial Enterprise) and source it lawfully.
  2. Highlight job creation potential.
    Showcase the NCE's business plan and ability to generate 10 jobs.
  3. Navigate regional center complexities.
    Understand how job creation is calculated differently compared to direct EB-5 investments.
  4. Gather accurate evidence.
    Identify the documents needed to prove your investment, lawful source of funds, and potential for job creation.

With this knowledge in hand, you can take informed steps toward obtaining your U.S. residency:

  1. Seek expert guidance.
    Collaborate with an experienced immigration attorney to navigate the nuances of the I-526E petition.
  2. Prepare meticulously.
    Compile all necessary evidence, ensuring documentation meets USCIS's rigorous standards.
  3. Stay informed.
    Be aware of potential processing times and any future changes to the EB-5 program.

Remember, your journey towards a U.S. Green Card begins with mastering the I-526E petition. This guide is your compass, helping you confidently navigate the process and pave the way for a brighter future.

How to Prepare Form I-526E

The three primary purposes of the I-526E petition are to prove that:

  1. A qualifying EB-5 investment was made in an NCE.
  2. The investment was made using lawfully sourced funds.
  3. The NCE has a credible business plan and employment creation projections.

We now examine how investors can submit the appropriate evidence in Form I-526E. This application is typically prepared with an immigration attorney’s assistance.

Evidence Needed Notes
1. Qualifying EB-5 Investment
Bank statements Clearly show investment amount in NCE.
Loan certificates Demonstrate funding source if applicable.
Promissory notes Proof of future investment commitments.
Escrow account records Track funds securely until petition approval.
TEA data (rural or unemployment) Reduced investment amount requires proof of TEA designation.
Census data Verifies rural TEA status.
ACS/LAUS data Supports unemployment data for TEA qualification.
2. Lawful Source of Funds
Salary payment records Income source documentation.
Real estate sales documents Proof of asset sale proceeds.
Secured loan agreements Demonstrate borrowing details.
Stock sale records Track capital gains from sales.
Inheritance documentation Verify inheritance as a legitimate source.
Attorney Guidance Crucial for navigating USCIS standards.
3. Credible Business Plan & Job Creation
NCE business plan Detailed operational plan, financial projections, and hiring timetable.
Management team background information Demonstrate their qualifications and experience.
Job position descriptions Provide specifics for each projected position.
Direct investment: Full-time W-2 payroll records Proof of job creation within the company.
Regional center investment: Economic impact data Demonstrate indirect and induced job creation.
Attorney assistance Ensure compliance with job creation calculations.

Support notes:

  • Proof of Investment in an NCE
    Evidence of an investment may include the NCE’s bank statements, loan certificates, promissory notes, or escrow account records (EB-5 capital is often stored in an escrow account until the investor’s I-526E petition is approved).
  • Evidence of TEA designation
    If the NCE is located in a TEA and qualifies for the reduced investment amount, evidence of TEA designation must be submitted along with Form I-526E.
    Data supporting rural TEA status can be obtained from the most recent 10-year national census and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Unemployment data can be obtained from the American Community Survey (ACS) and Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS).
  • Lawful Source of Funds
    Proving the lawful sourcing of the EB-5 investment constitutes a significant challenge in preparing the I-526E petition. USCIS maintains stringent standards for source-of-funds documentation, necessitating investors to trace their capital flow meticulously.
    This thorough process enables USCIS to screen out applicants with questionable backgrounds.
    Given the diverse nature of investors' funding sources, including salary payments, real estate sales, secured loans, stock proceeds, or gifted capital, USCIS accepts virtually any legal source. The guidance of an immigration attorney is crucial for determining the specific documentation required in each case.
  • Potential for Job Creation
    Form I-526E is required to demonstrate that the invested capital will create a minimum of 10 qualifying jobs within two years of the investor commencing conditional residency.
    For this purpose, the business plan of the NCE should encompass details such as the business's purpose, operational plan, financial projections, and background information on the management team. USCIS places greater credibility on business plans that describe each projected job position, including a hiring timetable.

    Investors must know of substantial differences in job creation calculations between direct and regional center-sponsored EB-5 offerings. The direct investment model mandates NCEs to establish full-time, W-2 positions reflected on the company's payroll, sustained for at least two years, and filled by workers authorized for U.S. employment.

    In contrast, NCEs in the regional center program can consider indirect and induced employment. Indirect jobs stem from the NCE's overall economic impact, such as expenditures on materials and services for local companies in a construction project. Similarly, induced employment arises when NCE employees spend their wages there.

    While calculating these forms of employment through an econometric model is advantageous, USCIS permits indirect and induced positions to constitute a maximum of 90% of a regional center NCE's total job creation, necessitating the creation of at least one direct position by businesses in the regional center program.
  • The Investor’s Managerial Role
    The EB-5 program isn't just about investing but actively contributing to your chosen NCE's (New Commercial Enterprise) success. However, your involvement in the day-to-day operations depends on the company's unique management structure. And guess what? This crucial information needs to be woven into your I-526E petition.
    Think of it as showcasing your role in the NCE's engine. Whether you're steering the wheel as a board member or guiding the gears as a limited partner, clearly detailing your level of involvement in the petition builds trust and demonstrates your commitment to the program's goals.

    So, how do you unveil your role like a pro? Here are some tips:
    • Identify the structure: Understand the NCE's specific management framework, whether it's a limited partnership, board-driven system, or something else entirely.
    • Define your position: Pinpoint your designated role within that structure. Are you a voting member, advisor, or investor with limited say?
    • Document your involvement: Gather evidence of your participation, like meeting minutes, voting records, or communication logs with NCE leadership.

      Remember, transparency is critical. By accurately reflecting your involvement in the I-526E petition, you open the door to a smoother immigration process and set the stage for a rewarding, collaborative journey with your chosen NCE.

  • Information on the Regional Center
    Form I-526E must also include information on the regional center sponsoring the NCE. Before accepting I-526E filings for a project, regional centers must submit a “project request” I-956F form.
    Each investor’s I-526E petition must include the receipt number for the project’s I-956F form. All administrative costs and fees the investor pays must also be reported.
  • The Investor’s Background Information
    Investors must include background information on Form I-526E, including their employment history, net worth, and past compliance with U.S. work authorization and immigration laws.

Form I-526E Amendments

Sometimes, an EB-5 investor’s NCE or regional center may be terminated due to failing to comply with USCIS regulations. If a regional center or NCE is terminated for reasons outside an investor’s control, the investor may file an amendment of their Form I-526E and either invest in a different project or affiliate with a different regional center.

Submitting the I-526E Petition

An investor’s immigration attorney typically submits Form I-526E to USCIS. As of August 2022, the filing fee is $3,675. Upon adjudication, USCIS may either approve the I-526E petition, deny the form, or send a request for evidence. The agency's decision should be favorable if the applicant shows that the funds were sourced legally and provides sufficient evidence of compliance with USCIS standards.

Processing Times for Form I-526E

Acquiring U.S. permanent resident status through the EB-5 program is a time-intensive process for foreign nationals, spanning several years. USCIS processing times for this endeavor can be prolonged. 

(Form I-526E was introduced in July 2022, and processing data for the petition are not currently accessible. The subsequent section outlines processing times for Form I-526, applicable to direct and regional center EB-5 investors until July 2022.)

USCIS’s Historical National Median Processing Time page lists the I 526 processing time for the past fiscal years.

Historical I - 526 Processing Time Statistics (areas outside of China)

Fiscal Year Processing Time, months*
2017 16.6
2018 17.9
2019 19.0
2020 31.1
2021 32.5
2022 44.2
2023 50.0

Table: I - 526 Processing Time


*The number of months shown is the median.

The numbers presented indicate a rise in  I-526E approval success rate for EB-5 in 2020 and 2021. However, investors must know that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted USCIS processing capacity during that timeframe.

USCIS’s estimated I-526 processing time is 52.5 months as of August 2022—an increase from 2021.  Investors from China should anticipate an extended waiting period due to the current cutoff dates outlined in the monthly Visa Bulletin. This bulletin provides information on countries facing delays in EB-5 visa processing.

Current I 526 processing times

All other areas China-mainland born
i 526 Processing Times NO China Born I - 526 Processing Times China

Table: Current I - 526 Processing Time


Learn more on subject  EB-5 processing time by country 2023, 24   , EB5 Processing Time, A Journey Towards Green Card 2024

Why EB5 I 526 processing time so long?

Several factors impact the processing times for I-526 petitions. These include the complexity of the documentation related to the source of funds, the accuracy of the petition, and the investor's country of origin. For instance, if the source of funds is more complex, it may take longer to verify, and if there are any errors in the petition, it may lead to requests for additional evidence.

How Will the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act 2022 Impact I 526E Processing Time?

Possible I-526E Improvements Under the Biden Administration

How long does I-526E approval take? Nevertheless, with the conclusion of the pandemic, industry experts anticipate a reduction in processing times. The recent appointment of Ur Jaddou as the USCIS director on July 30, 2021, signals a commitment to enhancing efficiency. The Biden administration, known for its favorable stance on immigration, may implement further measures to expedite the processing times for EB-5 visas.

Prospective investors can anticipate positive changes in the EB-5 industry, as President Biden signed the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 on March 15, 2022. This legislation introduces essential policy modifications in EB-5 program I-526E processing time and enhances transparency in regional centers and NCEs. 

Notably, the act provides priority processing for rural TEA investors, allocates 32% of the annual EB-5 visa pool to TEA and infrastructure projects, and, with increased funding for USCIS, may lead to a reduction in the average processing time for I-526E in the coming months. This development brings excitement to the EB-5 program.

Special Instructions and Other Considerations 

You will receive separate receipt notices for properly filed Form I-526 and Form I-526E. The first notice you should expect to receive will be from the USCIS lockbox, acknowledging receipt of your Form I-526 or Form I-526E and the total fee amount received and processed.

We will then issue a formal receipt notice that includes the assigned receipt number for the application when data entry has been completed.

Form I-526: Important Fee Payment Change

Effective September 1, 2022, separate fee payments will be required for Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, or Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, when filed alongside other forms.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Combined Payments No Longer Accepted
    Applicants or petitioners cannot combine fee payments for Form I-526 or Form I-526E with Form I-485, Form I-131, or Form I-765.
  • Separate Payments Required
    Petitioners must submit distinct fee payments for Form I-526 or Form I-526E, even if filed concurrently with other forms.
  • Non-Compliance Consequences
    Failure to submit separate payments will result in form rejection and fee return.

Additional Information:

  • Filing Fee for Form I-526
  • Accepted Payment Methods
    Money order, personal check, cashier's check, or credit card (using Form G-1450)
  • Payable to
    U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Fees Are Nonrefundable
    Filing and biometric service fees are not refundable, regardless of application outcomes.
  • Use Fee Calculator
    Determine your exact fee using the provided calculator.

Electronic Processing Transition:

  • Separate payments are required due to the transition to electronic processing, which involves multiple processing systems.
  • Combined payments may lead to package rejection.

Ensure compliance with these updated fee payment guidelines to avoid delays and complications in your immigration petition process.

Form Filing Tips

Filing Tips: Review the Tips for Filing Forms by Mail page for information on ensuring we accept your form.

Differences Between the EB-5 Regional Center Program and Direct EB-5 Investment

Investment in Direct EB-5 Opportunities Investment in EB5 Regional Center Program
Funds Flow
Invested directly into an NCE Invested in a regional center's funds
Job Creation Responsibility
NCE itself is responsible for job creation (JCE) Regional centers manage funding across multiple NCEs
Relationship Between NCE and JCE
NCE and JCE are typically the same entity NCE and JCE are usually separate entities
Form for Petition
Form I-526 is used by investors in direct EB-5 projects Form I-526E is used by investors in regional center projects
Popularity in EB-5 Program
Less popular compared to regional center investments The most popular investment vehicle in recent years
Investment Projects List
EB5 direct investment projects EB5 investment projects list

Minimum Investment Amount

Investment Amount Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) Other Projects
Minimum Investment $800,000 $1,050,000
TEA Criteria Rural areas or an unemployment rate of 150% of the U.S. national average Not subject to specific TEA criteria

Learn more about EB 5 Investment Amount and Total EB 5 visa Cost


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