What is a “rural area”?

A rural area is specifically defined by law.  A rural area is: 

Any area other than an area within a standard metropolitan statistical area (MSA) (as designated by the Office of Management and Budget) or within the outer boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more based on the most recent decennial census of the United States.  

It is clear that whether a project is located within a rural area or not is a fact that cannot be manipulated.  

Ajin USA’s Joon Georgia manufacturing facility is located at 234 Bruce Yawn Boulevard, Register, GA.  As of the 2020 census, Register had a population of 157.

What is “priority processing”?

Green card applications are classified by categories.  Applicants are also classified by country of birth.  This system is illustrated by the Visa Bulletin which is published by the US Department of State every month.  By reading the Visa Bulletin, you can see how long it might take for an immigrant visa to become available for a particular type of application and applicant.  Unfortunately, this factor by itself does not fully answer the question: How long will it take for me to get my green card?  In addition to reviewing the Visa Bulletin, which tracks the progress of immigrant visa availability, an applicant must also find out how long it might take USCIS to process an investor’s petition.  

As of the writing of this article, it is currently taking USCIS a reported 56 months to process an I-526 petition.  It should be noted that the current USCIS processing time reports do not seem to specifically track I-526E petitions submitted after passage of the Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA).  Still, it is common knowledge in the EB-5 industry that USCIS processing of any I-526 petitions is normally very backlogged.  Within the RIA is a commitment to process I-526E petitions for investors in a Regional Center-sponsored rural area project on a “priority” basis.  There is no firm definition of how quickly priority processing will be completed.  Based on industry-wide experience, it appears that priority processing means adjudication of the I-526E petition in about 11 to 12 months.

Why is this information important?

There are only 10,000 immigrant visas available every year for the EB-5 program.  Out of these 10,000 immigrant visas, 2,000 visas are set aside for projects located in a “rural area.” This is one of the new EB-5 program features provided by the RIA.  Because the maximum number of immigrant visas that can be allocated to each country is only 7%, the set aside of 2,000 visas for rural area projects could lower the risk of immigrants from countries with very high visa demand getting stuck in the years-long backlog that previous EB-5 investors have been suffering.  

At the same time, however, the opportunity for an overall quicker application process provided by investment in a rural area project makes such an investment very attractive to many investors.  In addition, with the increase of the I-526E petition filing fee from $3,675 to $11,160 set to take effect on April 1, 2024, EB-5 visas for investments in rural area projects could be quickly used up.