What is I-526 petition?
The I-526 petition is a form that an investor seeking to obtain an immigrant EB-5 visa to the USA submits to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The EB-5 program is an employment-based visa category that allows foreigners to obtain permanent residency in the United States by investing in a new commercial enterprise that creates jobs for U.S. workers. The amount of investment is $800,000 or $1,050,000, depending on the region.
The I-526 petition is the initial step in the EB-5 process and is used to demonstrate that the investor meets the program's requirements, including the investment amount and job creation criteria.
Who is eligible to submit an I‑526 petition?
An EB-5 immigrant visa is a clear, though long, way for an investor to obtain a Green Card, which is a residence permit in the USA. As the I-526 petition is an essential part of an application for an EB-5 visa, the eligibility criteria for both the petition and the visa coincide.
To qualify, the investor needs to meet all the following criteria:
- Invest at least $800,000 in an enterprise. The company should be in rural areas or in a region with an unemployment rate 1.5 times higher than the national average. In other regions, the minimum investment sum is $1,050,000.
- Create a company. The company must be created from scratch; another option is to invest in the company that has been opened no later than November 29th, 1990.
- Create 10 new working places. It should be full-time employment for two years, and the amount does not include the investor or their family.
- Be actively involved in the company's daily management or formation of its strategy.
There is also a possibility of making an investment through a regional centre. They promote specific economic areas, and their businesses are already approved by the USCIS. The requirements, in this case, are simpler: it is not necessary to create 10 jobs as the centre has already created them; it is not required to actively participate in the business; and the investor may just get passive income instead.
If the investor decides to use the help of a regional centre, then the petition is submitted by the centre itself. So, the petition form in this case is I-526E. This form is almost identical to the I-526 but contains extra parts with information about the regional centre.
If the investor acts independently and meets the requirements, they can prepare the I-526 petition and collect related documents to apply for an EB-5 visa.
Information required for the form I‑526 petition
The form can be found on the USCIS website. It is divided into several parts, each serving a specific purpose.
- Information about an investor. It contains questions about personal information such as full name, address, and contact details. This section also requires the investor to describe their employment history over the last 20 years.
- Information about the investor’s family. It applies to a spouse and children and also includes personal information, citizenship, and permanent residence.
- Information about the new commercial enterprise. The applicant provides the name, location, and description of the new commercial enterprise they are investing in
- Information about the investment. The investment type, investment amount, composition dates, bank accounts, and sources of capital should be listed in the petition.
- Employment Creation Information. This section includes questions about the job creation aspect of the investment, such as the number of jobs that will be created and the expected time frame for job creation.
- Information about visa and immigration. This part is devoted to the investor’s current status and their employment in the US.
The I-526 petition should be properly signed; boxes for that are in parts 7, 8, and 9 depending on who is signing. The USCIS also demands a copy or a scan of a document with a valid signature as proof.
The petitioner should answer all questions fully and accurately. If some question does not apply, one may type N/A in the box. If there is a lack of space for some answers, the form contains Part 10 for additional information.
I-526 petition fee, processing time, and evidence
The I-526 petition fee is $3,675. The amount should be precise. It is possible to pay by credit card or send a check to the USCIS; cash is not accepted. The Service recommends contacting the nearest US Embassy or Consulate to get instructions about payment methods for those who live outside the USA. The fee is non-refundable no matter the outcome.
The I-526 petition processing time is usually 3 to 4 years. The speed is limited by the annual quota for EB-5 visas. Usually, it is 10,000 visas, but in 2023, it is 13,987.
To accompany the petition, an applicant must submit evidence:
- Lawful business entity. It confirms the investment and the validity of the enterprise. The list of documents for this part may include copies of articles of incorporation, certificates of merger or consolidation, partnership agreements, certificates of a limited partnership, joint venture agreements, business trust agreements, or other similar organisational documents; a certificate evidencing authority to do business in a state or municipality; or if such is not required or issued, a statement to that effect.
- Targeted employment area. This block includes documents confirming that the enterprise the investor has created is located in a rural area or in an area with an unemployment average rate 1.5 times higher than the national average rate. To prove the statistics, the investor should calculate reliable and verifiable data. It is not applicable to the investors who created or chose enterprises in other areas.
- Confirmation of investment. Evidence should show that the petitioner owns assets to be used or were already used to make the investment, and the petitioner is personally and primarily liable. For example, copies of bank statements, evidence of purchased assets or transferred properties, promissory notes, security agreements, etc.
- Lawful capital. The documents here confirm that the capital for the investment was obtained through lawful means. For instance, foreign business registration records, tax returns within the last seven years, evidence of other sources of capital, or certified copies of any judgments. If the investment fund was gifted or borrowed, then evidence from the donor or the lender is also necessary.
- Job creation. Evidence that the enterprise has created or will create at least ten full-time positions for qualifying employees. Such documents as copies of relevant tax records, Form I-9s, which are employment eligibility verifications, or a comprehensive business plan for future employment.
- Identification. A copy of an ID or a passport.
What to do after your I-526 petition is approved
The USCIS considers filing the I-526 petition a preliminary step. If it is approved, then the investor and their family need to take the main steps.
If an applicant is outside the USA. An applicant and their family need to file a DS-260 petition, the application for an immigrant visa, and alien registration. It allows them to obtain an EB-5 visa abroad. The DS-260 application is submitted online, and the filing fee is $325. After that, they have an interview at the American embassy and get their visas there.
If an applicant is already in the USA, they should file an I-485 form. It is an application to register permanent residence or adjust status to a conditional permanent resident. The form fee is $1,140 per person and $750 for a person under 14 years old who is filing the I-485 form together with at least one parent. The biometric services fee is $85 per person between 14 and 78 years old; it is free for others.
Once the application is approved, the petitioner obtains a temporary residence permit or a conditional Green Card, which is valid for two years. In order to change it to a permanent Green Card, the applicant needs to file Form I-829 and submit it within 90 days before the expiration of the conditional Green Card. The filing fee is $3,750, and the biometric services fee is also $85 for an applicant between 14 and 78 years old. The investor applying for a permanent Green Card should documentarily confirm that the business works and provides jobs.
A permanent Green Card is valid for ten years, and its holder can reapply for it a limitless number of times. After having it for five years, an investor and their family are eligible to apply for American citizenship.
Frequently asked questions
Form I-526 immigrant petition is the main part of an application for an EB-5 visa for investors in the USA. It contains information about the investor, their family, their business enterprise, and the investment they are making.
Form I-526 visa petition approval means that the applicant and their family are eligible to obtain an immigrant EB-5 visa to the USA. To get that, they need to file another form, I-485.
After getting a visa, they apply for a conditional Green Card, which is valid for two years. After this period, they can get a permanent Green Card, and five years later, they are eligible to apply for American citizenship.
I-526 petitions by entrepreneurs are normally processed in 4—5 years.
EB-5 is an immigrant visa for investors in the USA. To qualify, one needs to invest $800,000 or $1,050,000 in an American business, depending on the region, create 10 new jobs, and take part in running the enterprise.
The I-526 visa petition is the main part of an application for the EB-5 visa. It is a special form of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that asks an investor for information about themselves and their family, their business, and the investment.