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How EB-5 investors should prepare for a visa interview

An approved I-526 or I-526E petition does not mean an automatic Green Card. An EB-5 investor outside of the U.S. must still undergo a consular visa interview. Immigration lawyer Jinhee Wilde offers practical advice on what an applicant should know and bring to the interview. The stakes are high — visas for the applicant and dependent family members — so preparation is essential.

The purpose of the interview

The officer at an EB-5 interview aims to determine if the applicant and dependent family members are eligible for visas. The consulate officer will verify the applicant's supporting documentation and determine if there are any grounds for inadmissibility.

The interviewer has the authority to ask any questions related to the petition — and some consular posts may even re-evaluate the entire I-526 petition. However, most officers focus on the applicant's understanding of the project, investment terms, inadmissibility grounds, and civil documents.

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Know the project’s business plan and current status

Wilde strongly advises that EB-5 applicants should understand the business plan. “It could be unwise to show the consular officer that they invested in EB-5 project/business just to get the immigrant visa, i.e., ‘buying” a visa,’” she warns.

If the petitioner invested through a limited partnership or a regional center, he or she should request an executive summary of the project, preferably no longer than a page, and ideally with bullet points. 

The summary should highlight key aspects of the project, such as a description of the business, the method of job creation and the expected number of jobs, the projected capital raise, the EB-5 portion of the capital stack, the number of investors involved, the responsibility of EB-5 investors in the business (such as management or the right to provide policy input). Some consular officers may even ask about the specific spending purpose of the EB-5 investment capital.

In addition to the summary, Wilde also recommends that the applicant bring the full business plan and I-526 petition to the interview.

And as the original petition may have been filed years earlier, the applicant should request from the regional center or new commercial enterprise (NCE) an update of the project's current status prior to the interview; the applicant can then provide accurate and up-to-date information during the interview.

Be able to explain the source and path of funds

Interview applicants should also seek assistance from their immigration attorney or migration agent regarding the source and path of funds. These professionals can provide a chart depicting the flow of funds or a written summary for the consular officer's review. A pre-interview review with an immigration expert can ensure that the applicant is prepared to address any inquiries related to the funds invested in the EB-5 project.

Be consistent with the petition

Applicants should thoroughly understand the contents of their I-526 filings to maintain consistency during the interview. While consular officers aim to conduct interviews efficiently, discrepancies between the filing and the applicant's responses can result in delays or even visa denial. As each EB-5 petition I-526/I-526E filing can contain thousands of pages of documentation, understanding the summaries about the business and source of funds is vital in ensuring petition documentation and interview answers align.

Questions about the applicant’s background

As is standard with all U.S. visa interviews, the consular officer will inquire about the applicant's background to verify and update the information provided during the application process. Wilde advises applicants to bring original copies of all documents submitted to the National Visa Center, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc., to the interview.

The applicant should be prepared to discuss personal information such as employment history, police records, dependents, family connections, etc. The officer may also review answers to the security questions on the DS-260 visa application.

Reasons for inadmissibility

The consulate officer will assess any reasons for inadmissibility into the U.S. This may include health issues; criminal history; prior unauthorized entry into the U.S.; fraud; misrepresentation of immigration details, health-related issues, and other statements. Wilde warns that even a seemingly minor shoplifting offence in the applicant's past can be grounds for inadmissibility.

Summary: truth and consistency is the way

A visa interview may be nerve-wracking considering the stakes — a new future for the applicant and dependent family members. But Wilde advises that as long as the applicant is truthful, consistent with the I-526 petition, and admissible into the U.S., the interview should lead to U.S. visas.

See the Jinhee Wilde's article in IIUSA: "Navigating EB-5 Visa Interviews: Documents To Bring As 'Backpocket' Evidence"

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