The EB-5 Visa program was created in 1990 as means to encourage foreign investors to establish businesses in the U.S. It is listed as the fifth preference under the Employment-Based immigration category. An EB-5 Visa essentially grants a conditional green card to immigrant investors who are willing to invest:
- $1 million for the purpose of initiating business enterprises in the United States
- $500,000 in a "targeted employment area" with high-unemployment or in rural area
Are There Other Requirements for EB-5 Visas?
The requirements are relatively few. Basically, the foreign investor must demonstrate an intent to invest at either of the two minimum qualifying amounts listed above. They will then be granted a conditional green card, and after two years the conditions will be lifted. They can then apply for permanent citizenship shortly thereafter, although it may be up to five years before that determination is final.
The conditions on the green card will be removed if after two years the person can prove:
- The business which they established is still an ongoing project
- The business has created at least 10 new jobs; family members will not count.
The immigrant investor must also be involved in the day-to-day management of the business endeavor, and the business must contribute goods or services to U.S. citizens.
What Is A "Regional Center"?
As mentioned above, immigrant investors can also choose to invest in what are known as “targeted employment areas.” These are areas designated by the state as having high unemployment rates or that experience notable economic hardships. For immigrants applying under an EB-5 visa, the required minimum investment in these areas is lowered to $500,000.
If the immigrant investor will be investing their resources in a designated targeted employment area, they will usually be working with a Regional Center. These are organizations whose task it is to oversee the immigrant investment activities. A full list of approved Regional Centers may be viewed at the website for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
What Is the Main Benefit and Drawback of an EB-5 Visa?
Benefit: The main benefit of EB-5 visas is that they allow an alien to obtain permanent citizenship in a relatively shorter amount of time. The typical time period involves only between 2 to 5 years, as compared to up to 10 or 15 years for other visa categories.
Drawback: The main drawback to the EB-5 category is, of course, the large amount of money that one must invest in order to qualify for the green card. However, for persons who are already investing large amounts of finances into American projects, the EB-5 category may be a highly preferable option.
Do I Need a Lawyer for an EB-5 Visa?
Applying for an EB-5 visa requires much planning and foresight, since it involves investing a considerable amount of time and money. This is especially true if you will be applying under the targeted employment areas sub-category. You should work closely with an immigration lawyer to determine what types of business activities would qualify, and also to locate the various Regional Centers if necessary.