EB5 Regional Center Green Card Alternatives for 2023

Written by: Rongjie Zhao
Last Updated by Sabrina Giampaolo: June 19, 2023
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eb5 regional center

The EB5 visa program provides foreign investors with an opportunity to obtain permanent residency in the United States through investment. Roughly 90 to 95 percent of all participants apply through an EB5 regional center investment each year. 

Contents

What is an EB5 regional center?

A regional center is a private or public entity that is designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to promote economic growth and job creation in a specific geographic area. The regional center program allows investors to invest in a project that meets the program’s requirements, such as creating at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers.

Applying for an EB5 Visa Through a Regional Center Investment

The process of applying for an EB5 visa through a regional center investment involves several steps. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you understand the process:

Step 1: Conduct Due Diligence

Conducting due diligence is essential before investing in an EB5 regional center. Investors should research the regional center and the project thoroughly to ensure that it meets the program’s requirements and that their investment is safe. It is important to work with experienced immigration attorneys and regional centers to ensure that all documentation is complete and accurate.

Step 2: File Form I-526

The first step in the EB5 visa application process is to file a Form I-526 petition with the USCIS. This petition must be filed by the investor or their authorized representative and must be accompanied by evidence that the investment meets the requirements of the EB5 program. The USCIS will review the petition and make a decision on whether or not to approve it. Investors must provide evidence to show that they have invested or are in the process of investing the required amount of capital into the regional center.

Step 3: Conditional Permanent Residency

Once the investor’s Form I-526 petition is approved, they will be granted conditional permanent residency in the U.S. The investor must then file a Form I-485 application to adjust their status to that of a conditional permanent resident. This process involves submitting biometric information, attending an interview with the USCIS, and providing further evidence to support their application.

Step 4: File Form I-829

Within 90 days before the second anniversary of the investor’s admission to the U.S. as a conditional permanent resident, the investor must file a Form I-829 petition to remove the conditions on their green card. This petition must be accompanied by evidence that the investment was sustained throughout the conditional residency period and that the required jobs were created. USCIS will verify that the investor has met the requirements of the EB5 program during their conditional residency period.

Step 5: Permanent Residency

If the USCIS approves the Form I-829 petition, the investor will receive a permanent green card, which is valid for 10 years. The investor may then apply for U.S. citizenship after five years of permanent residency. The investor will be granted the right to live, work, and study in the United States without restrictions. 

EB5 Visa: How long are petitions taking?

The processing times for EB5 visa petitions have significantly increased in recent years. Currently, the USCIS is taking an average of 29.5 months to process Form I-526 petitions and an average of 41.5 months to process Form I-829 petitions. It is essential to work with experienced immigration attorneys and regional centers to ensure that all documentation is complete and accurate. Investors must be prepared to wait for an extended period before receiving a decision on their petitions.

eb5 regional center

What are the approval rates for I-526 and I-829 petitions?

According to the IIUSA Data Report for Q3 Fiscal Year 2022, the overall approval rate for I-526 petitions was 58%, which is lower than the long-term average level of 75%. This indicates that the USCIS is currently rejecting a majority of the I-526 petitions that are filed. In other words, from the graph below, we found that the approval rate for Form I-526 has been decreasing dramatically since 2018, which is also accompanied by a dramatic decrease of the number of applications received. The report also notes that the average processing time for I-526 petitions was 26.7 months, which is slightly longer than the previous quarter’s processing time of 25.3 months. This delay in processing times may be due to various reasons such as an increase in the number of applications filed, lack of resources, or additional scrutiny required for certain types of projects.

form i 526

Additionally, the report indicates that there is a significant variation in approval rates depending on the applicant’s country of origin. For instance, investors from countries like India and Vietnam face longer wait times due to the high demand for EB5 visas from these countries. Investors from China, on the other hand, have historically faced longer wait times, but the recent visa bulletin shows that the waiting time for Chinese applicants is currently shorter.

Approval Rates for I-829 Petitions

Regarding the approval rates for I-829 petitions, the EB5 Affiliate Network notes that the adjudication of I-829 petitions can be slow, and the average processing time can be anywhere from 24 to 36 months or longer. This delay may be due to various reasons such as additional documentation requests, backlog, or additional scrutiny required for certain cases. However, once the petition is approved, the conditional status is removed, and the EB5 investor and their family members can obtain permanent residency status.

The removal of conditions through an I-829 petition involves demonstrating that the investor has met the requirements of the EB5 program by investing the required amount in a qualifying project, creating the required number of jobs for U.S. workers, and maintaining the investment during the two-year conditional period. The investor must also demonstrate that they have not violated any immigration laws during the conditional period.

While the exact approval rate for I-829 petitions is not readily available, some sources suggest that it is generally higher than the approval rate for I-526 petitions. This may be because the investor has already made the investment and created the jobs required, which provides a greater level of assurance to the USCIS that the investor has met the program’s requirements.

In summary, the approval rates for I-526 and I-829 petitions can vary depending on several factors, including the applicant’s country of origin, the project they are investing in, and the overall demand for EB5 visas. While the approval rate for I-526 petitions is currently high, the adjudication of I-829 petitions can be slow, and the processing time may be longer than expected. However, once the petition is approved, the investor and their family members can obtain permanent residency status, provided they meet the program’s requirements.

EB5 Visa

What alternatives exist to the EB5 visa?

If you are considering applying for an EB5 visa, it is important to understand the alternatives that exist. One alternative is to apply for an E2 visa, which is available to investors from certain countries that have a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. Another alternative is to apply for an L-1 visa, which is available to executives, managers, and specialized knowledge employees of a foreign company who are being transferred to a related U.S. company.

EB2 NIW

The EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW), more commonly known as the EB-2 National Interest Waiver, is an immigrant visa that grants a foreign national lawful, permanent residence without the requirement of a job offer. The job offer requirement does not apply if the applicant can demonstrate that permanent residence in the U.S. would be in the country’s “national interest”

The benefit to the country can be demonstrated in many ways. But the most common is through the applicant’s contribution to a specific area of science or research.

The Department of Labor will grant authorization to employ a foreign national if the foreign national’s proposed efforts benefit the U.S. Consequently, a qualified individual can “self-petition” and obtain a green card based on his or her own professional experience and skills.

The EB2 national interest visa is available to foreign nationals who have obtained an advanced degree or its foreign equivalent in a professional field. These individuals may also meet this educational requirement with a bachelor’s degree and at least 5 years of progressive experience in their field.

That is, an advanced degree under EB-2 NIW is a degree or qualification higher than a bachelor’s degree. The applicant can obtain this in the U.S. from a recognized U.S. university or a foreign equivalent of a U.S. advanced degree.

Advantages of the EB2 NIW

Among many others, the main advantages of this visa are:

  • No job offer is required to apply.
  • The application process is relatively quick and simple.
  • Once the visa is obtained, the holder can work and live permanently in the United States.
  • Final approval does not depend on the Department of Labor, as opposed to the EB-3 and non-NIW EB-2 categories.

Disadvantages of the EB2 NIW

Among its cons, broadly speaking:

  • Benefits of the country must be clearly and precisely demonstrated.
  • Benefits are mainly for those with extraordinary abilities in their field of science or research.

EB2 National Interest Visa Requirements

Below you will find detailed eligibility requirements imposed by the USCIS in subcategories:

SubcategoriesDescriptionEvidence
Postgraduate degreeThe job you are applying for must require a graduate degree and you must possess such a degree or its foreign equivalent (a baccalaureate or bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent degree, plus five years post-baccalaureate, progressive work experience in your field). You must meet any other requirements specified in the labor certification, as applicable.Documentation, such as official records showing that you have a U.S. graduate degree or foreign equivalent degree and letters from former employers or your current employer showing that you have at least five years of progressive work experience in the specialty after receiving a baccalaureate degree. If a doctoral degree is usually required, you must have a U.S. or foreign equivalent degree.
Exceptional AptitudeYou will need to be able to demonstrate that you have some exceptional aptitude in the sciences, arts, or business. Exceptional aptitude “means a degree of ability markedly above that normally found in the sciences, arts or business.” You must meet any requirements specified in the labor certification, as applicable.You must meet at least three of the criteria below.*

What is the success rate for EB2 visa?

Compared with the EB5 visa, the success rate for the EB2 is relatively high. From 2013 to 2022, the success rate for the EB2 visa is relatively stable at 90-95% percent, although the number of applicants was increasing based on the information in the graph below. 

Fiscal Year Received
Petitions by Employment Preference2013201420152016201720182019202020212022TOTAL
Second Preference (EB2) 
Total Petitions40,73048,61458,19881,80969,83069,66378,04367,49570,52384,425669,330
Approved38,29145,93455,01477,78166,21366,32174,16464,09466,10671,031624,949
Denied2,4312,6613,1714,0073,5833,3153,8132,8211,8431,02328,668
Pending, Other81913213427665802,57412,37115,713

EB1 Visa

EB1A

The EB1A visa is a type of employment-based immigration visa that is designed for individuals who possess extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. This visa category is also known as the “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” visa.

To qualify for an EB1A visa, the applicant must demonstrate that they have sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in their field of expertise. This can be demonstrated through evidence of major awards, prizes, or other similar types of recognition, as well as evidence of publications, membership in professional associations, and other achievements that show that the applicant has risen to the top of their field.

The applicant must also be able to demonstrate that they will continue to work in their field of expertise while in the United States, and that their work will substantially benefit the United States. The applicant does not need a job offer or an employer to sponsor them for an EB1A visa, and they can petition for themselves.

One of the benefits of the EB1A visa is that it is considered a priority worker visa, which means that it is not subject to the same annual quota limitations as other employment-based visas. This means that there are no waiting times for visa availability, and the application can be processed faster.

EB1C

The EB1C visa is a type of employment-based immigration visa that is designed for executives or managers of multinational companies who wish to enter the United States to work in a managerial or executive capacity. This visa category is also known as the “Multinational Manager or Executive” visa.

To qualify for an EB1C visa, the applicant must have been employed by a qualifying foreign company as a manager or executive for at least one of the preceding three years. The foreign company and the U.S. company must also have a qualifying relationship, which means that the U.S. company must be a subsidiary, affiliate, or branch of the foreign company.

Additionally, the applicant must be entering the United States to work in a managerial or executive capacity for the U.S. company. A manager is someone who manages an organization or a department within an organization, while an executive is someone who has the authority to make strategic decisions for the organization. The applicant must also be able to demonstrate that they possess the required skills, experience, and knowledge to perform the managerial or executive duties.

One of the benefits of the EB1C visa is that it is considered a priority worker visa, which means that it is not subject to the same annual quota limitations as other employment-based visas. This means that there are no waiting times for visa availability, and the application can be processed faster.

What is the success rate for EB1?

The success rate of the EB1 visa from 2013 to 2017 was around 80% to 85%, as noted in the graph below. This visa’s stability possibly exceeds the EB5 visa in the long run, although the success rate in recent years might not have been as high as EB5’s. 

Fiscal Year Received
Petitions by Employment Preference2013201420152016201720182019202020212022TOTAL
First Preference (EB1) 
Total Petitions20,01322,58524,48328,41931,78128,31124,07921,33922,01125,950248,971
Approved17,59319,82821,79925,07027,13823,17019,41817,42217,57817,836206,852
Denied2,3962,6792,6363,2704,5695,0414,5383,6842,6052,06533,483
Pending, Other24784879741001232331,8286,0498,636

Conclusion

The EB5 visa program offers foreign investors a pathway to permanent residency in the United States through regional center investments. The process, as shown above, involves several steps to obtaining a green card. However, the processing times and approval rates for petitions can vary.

It is important to conduct due diligence, consult with specialists in the field, and ensure accurate documentation. While processing times and approval rates may vary, exploring alternative visa options such as the EB2 NIW, E-2 visa, or L-1 visa could be worth considering.

Seek professional guidance to navigate the process and increase your chances of success today!