How will filing an I-526 affect my admission to graduate school?
I recently got a bachelor''s degree. I am currently staying in the United States through 2015 with OPT status and I plan to attend graduate school in Aug. 2015. I will request my undergrad school to transfer my student records to the graduate school, and will need to get a new I-20 from the grad school. If I am also investing in EB-5, when should I file my I-526 petition? If I file my I-526 petition now, how will the immigration petition influence my ability to attend graduate school?
It should not. You are already in F-1 status and attending graduate school will not require that you file a change of status. However, it may affect your visa application if you leave the United States and want to come back to the United States as a student after filing the I-526.
One thing to be concerned about is that the filing of I-526, as an immigrant petition, is evidence of your immigrant intent. The immigrant intent may be a factor for you to not receive F-1 visas in the future. However, I recommend you speak to an experienced immigration attorney to determine how much of an impact it would have on your F-1 visa.
The two processes are conflicting as a student must show nonimmigrant intent and the I-526 indicates immigrant intent. It may work to do both if you assure USCIS you will be returning overseas to consular process if your I-526 is approved.
Since you are under a valid F-1 status now, the filing of I-526 is unlikely to have any impact on your ability to start the graduate school. Theoretically, as an F-1 international student, you cannot possess the intention to remain in the United States indefinitely, which conflicts with the filing of the I-526 - an immigrant visa petition. However, one only needs to establish that intent at the time of applying for a F-1 visa stamp at an overseas U.S. consulate or at the time of entering the United States. While you are in the U.S. under F-1, there is no requirement to establish such non-immigrant intent.
Since there may be an issue of your immigrant intent if you file your I-526 immigrant investor petition prior to your admission under F-1 status, it may be advisable for you to get your grad school admission and F-1 status approved before the I-526 filing.
The F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa and that status could be maintained as long as you continue as a student through OPT and then in a graduate program without a break, as your F-1 visa stamp on the I-94 probably states DS for duration of status. Thus, as long as you maintain that status, you do not have to worry about filing the I-526 while still attending school and staying in United States. The problem may arise if you wish to travel outside of the United States, and particularly if you need to get another F-1 visa while the I-526 is pending, as the DS-160 application has a question that asks if you have ever filed an immigrant petition, which the I-526 is. However, if you work with an experienced EB-5 attorney, that attorney should be able to guide you through each step to make sure that you do not inadvertently trigger any problems.
You should not file your I-526 petition until after you receive your I-20 and change of status to F-1, as, if you have filed the I-526, it evidences immigrant intent and your I-20 and F-1 visa may be denied as it is a nonimmigrant visa.
I recommend you speak with a qualified EB-5 attorney to assist you. There is certainly a way for you to work this out so you are able to study in the United States and make your EB-5 investment. The most important aspect will be to ensure that you do not stay in the United States without having some sort of legal status.