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When are EB-5 projects approved by USCIS?

I am a little confused about the project approval part of the EB-5 application process. Are any potential EB-5 projects preapproved by USCIS? If not what is the process at this step - are projects approved by USCIS only after getting potential investors? Can anyone fill me in on this step of the EB-5 process including approval timelines?

Answers

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    Ed Beshara

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    EB-5 projects can only be pre-approved by the USCIS if they are affiliated with a regional center. EB-5 direct projects not affiliated with a regional center cannot be pre-approved. An I-924 application has to be filed with the USCIS to obtain pre-approval. In the alternative, all EB-5 project documentation can be first reviewed by the USCIS with the first filing of the investor's I-526 petition, without the need to file the I-924 application. With the approval of the first I-526 petition then with subsequent I-526 petitions, the USCIS will defer to the previous approval of the EB-5 project documentation.

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    Salvatore Picataggio

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    Pre-approval is possible through the I-924 application process, but also, USCIS has stated they will afford deference to project documents when filed with the initial I-526 petition for later I-526 petitions filed. In this second scenario, the project does not receive formal pre-approval, but the second, third, fourth I-526 and so on should not have to get the project documents re-adjudicated.

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    Fredrick W Voigtmann

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    Due to the convoluted EB-5 regulations, specific EB-5 investment projects may be presented to the USCIS at various times for different purposes. For example, a regional center can receive its USCIS designation by submitting an application that includes a dummy (hypothetical) project, or it can submit an actual project without the deal package (agreements and documents needed for a complete I-526 submission), or it can submit an exemplar, which is essentially an actual project with the full business plan and deal package documents and agreements. The timing and purpose of each of these submissions varies from regional center to regional center, but the main benefit to submitting an actual project or exemplar to the USCIS is that the USCIS will grant deference to future I-526 petitions submitted with identical documents. In essence, this is a preapproval of the actual project. For a new project, or for a regional center with only a hypothetical approval attached to its designation, the first time USCIS sees the project business plan and documents will be in the first I-526 petition filed by an investor. No deference is granted and the USCIS will carefully review the first I-526 submissions for compliance with all EB-5 laws and regulations.

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    Parisa Karaahmet

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    The closest that you will come to seeing a "pre-approval" for a project is when the regional center has received an approval of an exemplar for the project from USCIS which is generally entitled to deference in the adjudication of future I-526 petitions associated with the same project.

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    John J Downey

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    You may submit a project as an exemplar. That is, send in all the documentation minus any investors. However, the timeline for approval could be a year and a lot may happen in the meantime. Your project might be listed as a TEA and the area may have fallen out of the category when you go to market. Most projects now submit the proposal with investors, the timeline still being about a year.

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    Lynne Feldman

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    If you are establishing a new regional center then you file an I-924 and the regional center is approved before any individual petitions for investors are received. If you are doing your own project, then you just file an I-526 with your business plan, proof of lawful funds, and the many details to show what your project is all about and how it will create 10 new full-time jobs from your investment within 2-3 years. If you are investing in a regional center, then they send us a huge packet of documents about the project and we add those to the packet about you and where you got your funds.

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