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January 26 2017

New Rules & Other News from Washington D.C.

New Rules on Visas for Muslims? 

President Donald Trump has issued and is expected to issue more executive orders on immigration today and in the coming days. He is expected to issue orders reducing refugees and suspending immigrant and temporary visas for citizens of Muslim-majority countries Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. 

This probably means increased vetting of visa applicants by Homeland Security, which will cause delays. We do not know yet how this will affect EB-5 immigrant visas. There are quite a few EB-5 petitioners from Iran.

It is likely that citizens subject to the ban who have already received a U.S. visa, but who have not yet traveled to the U.S., would not be able to be admitted to the US on that visa. This will include those with EB-5 visas.   

Other News from Washington D.C. 

On January 11, 2017, the USCIS published in the Federal Register an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making” asking for public comment on possibly modifying the rules on new RC charter applications, administration, and exemplars. For example, the notice states:

DHS is considering (1) requiring regional centers to file exemplar project requests, both to support individual EB-5 immigrant petitions and to maintain regional center designation and (2) requiring the approval of such a request before any investor may submit his or her EB-5 immigrant petition associated with a project covered by such request. As envisioned by DHS, USCIS would use the approved exemplar as evidence when adjudicating individual immigrant petitions related to the exemplar project.

To comment, go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal:

International Entrepreneurs

New rules for entrepreneurs will take effect on July 17, 2017, providing them temporary status to run their start-ups. These rules are complex. In fact, they do not involve a visa but rather “parole” status – entry not with a visa, but a special letter, for up to 30 months (2.5 years). International entrepreneurs are permitted a 30 month extension of their parole (for a total of 5 years). Up to three entrepreneurs per company can qualify for this benefit.

Here are the criteria:

For Applicant:

  • Substantial ownership in the company – i.e. 10% or more;
  • Has “central” and active role in the start-up – not a silent investor;
  • Applicant will provide significant U.S. benefit; and
  • Must maintain a household income greater than 400% of the Federal poverty line while in the U.S.

For Company:

  • Created within the past 5 years (i.e. start-up);
  • Has potential for rapid growth;
  • The start-up entity has received significant investment capital ($250,000 or more) from certain U.S. investors with established records of successful investments; or
  • The start-up entity has received significant awards or grants ($100,000 or more) for economic development, research and development, or job creation (or other types of grants or awards typically given to start up entities) from federal, state, or local government entities; and
  • The investment capital or grants/awards must be received by the start-up entity within the 18 months immediately preceding the filing of the parole application.
  • A “qualified investor” is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or an organization located in the U.S. that is majority owned by U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and that regularly makes substantial investments in start-ups that exhibit substantial growth in revenue generation or job creation. 
  • To meet this criterion, the U.S. citizen or permanent resident or U.S. organization must show that they have invested at least $600,000 in start-ups during the past five years and at least two of those start-up entities each created at least five qualified jobs or generated at least $500,000 in revenue, with average annualized revenue growth of at least 20%. 

For extension for an additional 30 months:

For Applicant:

  • Must still have an active “central” role in the business
  • Continues to own at least 5% of the company

For Company:

  • Received at least $500,000 in additional qualifying capital
  • Reached at least $500,000 in annual revenue, with average annualized growth of 20%, or additional government grants
  • Create at least 5 full time U.S. jobs

Other Benefits:

  • The Applicant’s spouse may obtain work authorization.


The regulation provides that applicants can show alternative evidence to qualify for this U.S. benefit, but does not explain what they may be.

Many people who may qualify for this new entrepreneur status may find the E-2 visa criteria more user-friendly. But E-2 visas are not available for every country. For example, there is no E-2 visa with China, India, or New Zealand.

To obtain International Entrepreneur status, there is no requirement that funds be spent ahead of time to show the funds are locked in and at risk. Additionally, the rules are silent as to whether the government will require a business plan or office lease, although I would recommend those items be provided.

I file about two to three E-2 visas per month worldwide. Documenting the entrepreneur parole application will be similar, but a bit different.

USCIS Posted Processing Time Skyrockets

With the new processing time format, USCIS says they are deciding I-526s filed before August 7, 2015 (17 months!). Petitioners whose cases are pending beyond that time may make an inquiry. The average I-526 processing time was at 14.2 months last month. I find the actual processing time is at about 14 months, but some cases take longer.