For most people, the most difficult part of the emigration process is making the decision to leave. Once that’s done, everything else starts falling into place, and there is a timeline and process you can follow for a smooth transition. Although each family’s move is unique, this is how the EB-5 process usually works:
- Once you’ve decided that the U.S. EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is the best option for your family, the next step is to enlist the services of an immigration attorney to submit your I-526 petition and make the required investment.
- It usually takes around 16-18 months for I-526 approval, and once this is granted, your attorney will apply for conditional green cards for you, your spouse, and any children up to age 21. You will then need to visit the U.S. Consulate for an interview and to give biometric data. This processing usually takes around 4 months, and once approved you’ll be granted an immigrant visa to the U.S.
- This visa is valid for 6 months, so you’ll need to travel to America within that timeframe and once you’ve entered the country you will receive your physical (conditional) green card, which is valid for two years.
It won’t always be possible to wrap up everything in your home country within the six months between finding out your green card application has been successful and travelling to America, but this is perfectly acceptable. You can plan your initial trip to America as a reconnaissance to look for a home, schools, a job, etc., and then return to your home country to finalize arrangements.
Your immigration attorney will be able to provide more detailed information based on your specific circumstances, but in general you shouldn’t stay outside the USA longer than 6 months as a green card holder.
Guidelines for an easy transition
Don’t rush selling property
Many immigrants opt to rent out their home for a few years while they find their feet overseas, and this will minimize the stress of moving if you can afford it. However, if you’ve decided it would be better to sell your property before you leave the country, make sure you leave plenty of time for this. Except for a select few areas, most of South Africa’s property market is sluggish, and it may take a while to receive an offer you’re happy with. If there are any home improvements you can make to achieve a better sales value or rental income, consider starting these now.
Rent first, buy later
One of the easiest ways to take the pressure off moving abroad is to rent a home initially. This will allow you to find your feet in your new city before making a big financial commitment.
Think carefully about furniture
How much of what you have now do you want to take with you? Many immigrants enjoy starting over with a clean slate in America, partly because moving costs can be expensive. But most families have at least some antiques, artworks, or family heirlooms they don’t want to part with, and the best plan is probably to place these in storage until you’ve found a permanent base in America. Don’t act too quickly when it comes to selling items you treasure just because you can’t face the hassle of moving them. There are so many international shipping companies operating today that the process is probably far simpler than you imagine.
Get your documents in order
Dealing with your home country’s home affairs department from abroad can be a challenge, so take the time to make sure you have all the documents you may need in future, along with certified copies. Think birth certificates, marriage/divorce certificates, medical certificates, police clearance certificates, university degrees and other education related certificates, property deeds, ID documents, and of course passports.
You’ll also want to make sure all your emigration-related paperwork is in order, so be sure to go through this in detail with your immigration attorney.
Do your research
If you have school-age kids, decide where in the U.S. you’d like to live. Research schools in the area, and reach out to them for application information. You could also join expat groups and forums online – these can help you learn a lot about life in your intended destination and make things much easier once you arrive.