When Prince Akeem, aka Eddie Murphy, came to America in the hit 1988 film, investment immigration opportunities for the wealthy could be challenging despite having deep pockets. As other countries began to make it easier for wealthy foreigners to immigrate, America started examining its policies and created the EB-5 program. The EB-5 visa for Immigrant Investors is a United States visa created by the Immigration Act of 1990.
America continues to be the “go-to” country for foreign individuals with high net worth who are seeking immigrationopportunities. Many countries have programs which allow individuals and families to immigrate based on financial commitments, but America’s program is slightly different. It has a two-step process.
Potential immigrants who have examined investmentimmigration opportunities, or “EB-5,” are also familiar with I-526 and I-829. The I-526 and I-829 are the forms, or applications, which investors complete during the EB-5 procedure.
The I-526 is submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and ImmigrationService (USCIS) for a green card which permits a two-year window of access to the country. When the 24 month “conditional” period is successfully completed, then the individual can file an I-829 which removes the conditions and grants the individual indefinite and permanent residency.
Currently, Chinese investors are dominating the EB-5 visa market with applicants from South Korea trailing far behind. However, InvestorVisa.ae reports record level of applications submitted by Middle East investors.
Previously, little has been documented about those that reached the second, or I-829, level in the process. Data released by the USCIS seem to show that Chinese applications are running at record levels. In fiscal year 2013, Chinese applicants totaled 49 percent of all I-829 applications stamped approved. The trip from the initial investment to permanent residency can be rocky for many potential immigrants looking at the EB-5 agenda.
To take part in the American plan, investors must be willing to invest a minimum of $1,000,000. If they are willing to invest in “target employment areas,” the amount of investment required is halved. An investment in a target employment area qualifies if a minimum of 10 jobs is created within the first twenty-four months and the investor must have invested in projects operated by USCIS approved centers.
To make it past the I-829 stage, the individual must document that their initial investment remains invested in the project as well as document the creation and continuation of the required jobs.
At the first stage, the I-526, the government normally gives approval based primarily on the business plan and projected costs. The I-829 stage requires the USCIS getting involved and confirming the job-creation requirement. Basically, approval requires that the investor be able to prove that the business plan was accomplished.
How Long Does It Take?
The permanent green card is not necessarily issued precisely after the I-526 has been approved. The two-year calendar only starts when the individual is actually admitted to America and not upon approval of the I-526.
Processing times and dates will vary based on investments and applications. Some individuals may be ready to head to America immediately after filing while others make take longer to complete the journey. The longer an individual waits before traveling to America, the longer the wait for the start of the two-year countdown.
Processing times for both I-526 and I-829 have changed as well. As immigration investment becomes more known and utilized, processing times have gone from several months to often over a year. The USCIS has reacted to this crunch by hiring and training more staff to process the application, but a wait time close to twelve months could still be often expected.
The number of investors has jumped from 1992 to 2008 according to the USCIS. One example is that of Chinese applicants. In 2008, Chinese applicants made up 13 percent of I-829 approvals. By 2011, that figure had jumped to 40 percent and, as of August, 2014, Chinese applicants account for 86 percent of approved I-829 applications.
Regardless of country-of-origin, every application has a family story behind it. The family wants to build its future in America and each puts their security and future at risk when beginning the process. The final stamp of approval on an I-829 application is a victory.