EB-5 Visa - Investing Your Way To A Green Card

November 2011 - By Shahzad Ahmed

Now more than ever, with the slowdown of the global economy, investors from around the world are looking to preserve their capital in a reliable and safe haven. Despite its economic challenges, the United States, still offers the best place to live and invest.

Thus, the EB-5 Visa, an abbreviation for the 5th preference employment-based category, is increasingly popular nowadays.

Currently, the Immigration and Nationality Act allows 10,000 immigrant visas per year for the EB-5, which are available to qualified individuals seeking permanent resident status on the basis of their engagement in a new commercial enterprise.

General EB5 Visa - Eligibility

To be eligible for the EB-5 visa, foreign investors must have invested -- or be actively in the process of investing -- the required amount of capital into a new commercial enterprise that they have established. They must further demonstrate that this investment will benefit the United States economy and create the requisite number of full-time jobs for qualified persons within the United States.

EB-5 Visa Eligibility

In general, eligible individuals for an EB-5 Visa include those:

  • Who establish a new commercial enterprise by either creating an original business; purchasing an existing business and simultaneously or subsequently restructuring or reorganizing the business such that a new commercial enterprise results; or expanding an existing business by 140 percent of the pre-investment number of jobs or net worth, or retaining all existing jobs in a troubled business that has lost 20 percent of its net worth over the past 12 to 24 months
  • Who have invested or are actively in the process of investing -- in a new commercial enterprise:
  • At least $1,000,000, or
  • At least $500,000 where the investment is being made in a "targeted employment area"
  • Experienced unemployment of at least 150 per cent of the national average rate or a rural area as designated by OMB
  • Whose engagement in a new commercial enterprise will benefit the United States economy
  • Create full-time employment for not fewer than 10 qualified individuals
  • Where the capital investment is being made in a "troubled business," (a business that has been in existence for at least two years and that has lost 20 percent of its net worth over the past 12 to 24 months). maintain the number of existing employees at no less than the pre-investment level for a period of at least two years.

    These are the general requirements for the EB-5 visa.

Investing in a Regional Center

Of the 10,000 EB-5 visas available annually, 5,000 are set aside for those who apply under a pilot program involving an USCIS-designated "Regional Center."

What is a Regional Center? A regional center is an entity, organization or agency that has been approved as such by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It focuses on a specific geographic area and seeks to promote economic growth through increased export sales, improved regional productivity, creation of new jobs, and increased domestic capital investment.

To successfully acquire permanent residency through investment in an EB-5 Regional Center, the foreign investors must demonstrate that the qualified investment is being made in a new commercial enterprise located within an approved Regional Center; and, show, using reasonable methodologies, that 10 or more jobs are actually created either directly or indirectly by the new commercial enterprise through revenues generated from increased exports, improved regional productivity, job creation, or increased domestic capital investment resulting from the pilot program.

Conditional Residency

Once the requisite applications are filed and approved by the USCIS, the foreign investor and his/her dependents may apply for conditional residency for two years. This conditional residency is akin to permanent residency in the sense that the person may temporarily travel without permission, and also that this two-period counts toward the total of five years of residency needed to apply for citizenship.

Permanent Residency

Eligible investors with conditional residence for two years may apply for removal of conditions from their lawful permanent residence. The applications must be filed within 90 days preceding the second anniversary of the foreign investors' and family's admission to conditional residency. In order to remove the condition on the residency, the applicant must demonstrate that he or she sustained the investment pursuant to the initial petition and that the requisite jobs were created or are likely to be created within a reasonable time.

The EB-5 visa is ideal for investors seeking to invest in a new commercial enterprise while acquiring permanent residency in the United States. But it is important to know the requirements in order to navigate this process properly.