The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is available to foreign individuals who wish to obtain a green card through investing in a new business and which business will create 10 new full time jobs to U.S. workers. This program offers a unique option to high net worth foreign individuals who do not have a relative or employer petitioning for their permanent residency, or do not possess internationally recognized skills or research to qualify for a national interest waiver or extraordinary ability visa. The qualifying minimum investment is $1,000,000 USD, and if the business is in a rural or high unemployment area, the required investment is reduced to $500,000 USD.

What Are The General Requirements For EB-5 Investment Visas?

The Immigration Act of 1990 ("IMMACT 90″) created the Immigrant Investor Program as the fifth preference category for employment-based immigration, also commonly known as "EB-5." The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is available to high net worth foreign individuals who wish to obtain a green card through investing in a new commercial enterprise in the United States. The main requirements are: 1) invest at least $1,000,000 USD in a new commercial enterprise, 2) employ at least 10 full-time U.S. workers, and 3) manage the day to day aspects of the business/be involved in policy making.

If the business is in a "targeted employment area" (also known as a "TEA," referring to a rural area or an area with 150% of the federal unemployment rate), the required investment is $500,000 USD.

Investments may be made through a USCIS Regional Center. A Regional Center is defined as "any economic unit, public or private, which is involved with the promotion of economic growth, including increased export sales, improved regional productivity, job creation, and increased domestic capital investment." In this case, the job creation requirement is less restrictive, and may be met by indirect jobs and induced jobs, as well as direct jobs. Indirect jobs or induced jobs are those created collaterally or as a result of capital invested in a commercial enterprise, as demonstrated through reasonable economic methodologies. Additionally, the investor is not required to handle the day to day management of the business if the investment is in a Regional Center. Many Regional Centers are set up in TEAs; therefore, investment through a Regional Center typically only needs to be $500,000 USD. For a list of USCIS Regional Centers, click here.

A Closer Look At The EB-5 Application Process

The timeline and the steps for obtaining a green card/permanent residence through the EB-5 program is as follows:

1. Due Diligence — the investor conducts his/her due diligence in identifying the appropriate business or Regional Center for investment. The time frame for this is on a case by case basis, depending on the investor. Some Regional Centers will host the potential investor and give a detailed tour of the project(s) for which they may be raising capital.

2. File I-526 — this is the Immigrant Petition for Alien Entrepreneur form. The filing process (document gathering by the investor and submission of same to attorney; review by attorney; completion of the petition package by attorney) may take five to six months.

3. I-526 Approval — after submission of the I-526 package, which will contain all supporting documents, the review and approval process by the USCIS may take another nine to 14/15 months, depending on the type of business involved in the investment. When the I-526 petition is approved, the package goes to the U.S. Consulate abroad, where the investor is residing, and the investor will be informed of a date/time for an interview. If the investor is already in the U.S. and on valid non-immigrant status, the investor may file for adjustment of status on form I-485.

4. Consulate Interview — if the foreign investor is outside the United States during the I-526 process, the U.S. Consulate will notify the investor to come in for an interview.

5. Arrive in US — After the visa is granted, the investor prepares to arrive to the United States.

6. Conditional Residency — during the first two years of the investor's residence in the United States on the EB-5 visa, the investor's status is that of a conditional resident. A conditional resident has all the same benefits as a permanent resident, but the investor must, before the anniversary of his/her two year conditional residence, file I-829 to remove the condition.

7. File I-829 — this is the Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions form. This petition is submitted with evidence that the capital has been fully invested and the required full time jobs have been created. The I-829 review and approval process is typically three to six months. Upon approval, the investor becomes a permanent U.S. resident.

If the investor wishes, after a total of five years of residence (and the two years of conditional residence count towards this five years), the investor is eligible to apply for naturalization (citizenship).

How Many EB-5 Visas Are There?

Ten thousand (10,000) EB-5 visas are available during each fiscal year (October 1 to September 30). In the first few years after the establishment of the program, USCIS only issued 300-400 EB-5 visas. With substantial improvements made in the consistency of the EB-5 visa review by USCIS and the addition of Regional Centers, with each successive year, the EB-5 visa program has grown in popularity.

Due to the unprecedented economic growth of China, resulting in the creation of many independently wealthy individuals, over half of the issued EB-5 visas go to savvy Chinese investors who recognize the opportunity to combine economic success with permanent residency in the United States for themselves and their families. During the 2013 FY, a total of 7300 EB-5 visas were issued, of which 6200 went to investors from mainland China. The country to receive the second largest number of EB-5 visas during 2013 FY was not even close — 300 visas to South Korean investors.

Based on current statistics, EB-5 approvals rates are relatively high: In 2011, 81% of the submitted I-526 petitions were approved, and 96% of submitted I-829 removal of condition applications were approved. In 2012, 79% approval rate for I-526s and 94% approval rate for I-829s.

How Can We Help?

Attorney Alison Yew has been involved with the EB-5 program since the 1990′s when the program was first introduced. She has successfully obtained EB-5 visas for foreign entrepreneurs and investors who invested in the United States. If you are an investor, we will help you identify businesses seeking capital investment so that you may conduct your due diligence as the first step of the EB-5 process. Our office will then identify the documentation needed for the petition package, complete the petition and submit it. We will work with your financial specialist(s) overseas to obtain proof of the legitimate source of the funds used as investment capital.

Related Government Sites on the EB-5 Visa Program

See the USCIS website for basic qualifying requirements for an EB-5 visa.

Talk To A Lawyer Who Knows The EB-5 Visa Process

To discuss obtaining an EB-5 investor visa with an experienced immigration lawyer, please contact our law firm online or by telephone at 408-389-4764.