Investors often wonder in a category with no back logs, how long it takes to obtain an EB-5 based green card. The answer is that processing times vary depending on the speed with which USCIS and/ or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad processes their applications. However, the following provides investors with a general idea of the timing involved:
Step One: Submit an I-526, Petition by Alien Entrepreneur with the USCIS. In this petition, the investor has to demonstrate that they have made either an investment through an individual EB-5 or through a regional center. In either case, their investment has to result in the creation of ten full-time, U.S. jobs. For regional center applicants they may satisfy this burden by demonstrating indirect employment creation. Investors must also demonstrate the lawful source of their funds and trace these funds into the account of the business, the regional center or an escrow account. Currently, this process takes between 6-8 months. USCIS hopes to reduce processing times for I-526 petitions to 5 months.
Step Two: Apply for a green card either through the filing of an I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status with the USCIS in the U.S. or through consular processing at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant's home country. I-485 applications are currently taking between 4-6 months to be adjudicated. Adjustment of Status applicants are permitted to concurrently file for work and travel authorization with their I-485, so that they can work and travel in and out of the U.S. while their adjustment is pending.
Applications through the consulate are first processed through the National Visa Center in the U.S. and then sent to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the home country for a mandatory interview. This process can take between 6-10 months, depending on how busy the home country consulate is. Applicants may also experience delays in processing due to "security checks." Once the green card is approved the investor become a conditional lawful resident of the U.S.
Step Three: 21 to 24 months prior to the two year anniversary of the receipt of the conditional green card the investor must file an I-829, Petition to Remove Condition of Residency. In the I-829, the investor must prove that the investment has been sustained since the time of initial investment and that they have created the requisite amount of jobs. I-829 petitions are currently processed within a 6 month timeframe. While the application is pending the investors' lawful resident status in the U.S. is temporarily extended.
Step Four (optional): 90 days prior to the five year anniversary of the issuance of an investor's initial conditional green card they may apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen. The naturalization process involves an interview where the applicant must demonstrate fluency in the English language. They must also pass a civics exam to demonstrate their knowledge of U.S. history and government. Processing times of N-400, Applications for Naturalization vary depending on the local office with jurisdiction over the applicant's place of residence, but generally vary from 4-10 months.
In planning ahead, investors should always be aware that government processing times are fluid and regularly speed up or slow down depending on the volume of petitions and staffing of the reviewing Agency. Processing times for all of the applications listed above are available on the USCIS processing time website.