Please note the actual regional center option has lapsed since June 2021.
Investing capital in exchange for a green card is a highly attractive option if you have the necessary funds. Established in 1990, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program – or simply the EB-5 visa – is intended to promote economic growth in the U.S. Before you pull out your checkbook, though, you’ll need to make sure you meet the following application criteria.
As of November 21 2019, EB-5 applicants are required to invest either $500,000 or $1,000,000 in an American for-profit enterprise (the amount depends on the company’s physical location). Both of these figures, of course, are denominated in USD. While the capital can be invested as cash, it can also take the form of inventory, equipment, secured indebtedness, tangible property, or cash equivalents.
There are two types of project locations that can lower your required investment capital from $1,000,000 to $500,000. Both fall under the umbrella of Targeted Employment Areas (TEA). In order to bolster the economy in towns and cities that may require extra help to thrive, EB-5 applicants can benefit from a reduced minimum investment if they choose to put their capital towards a TEA. Most investments available to EB-5 investors today are in a TEA.
1. Rural TEA’s
To qualify as a rural TEA, the location must be outside of a metropolitan statistical area (as determined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget), and must not be on the outskirts of a city or town with a population of 20,000 or more (according to the most recent U.S. Census)
2. High unemployment TEA’s
To be considered a high unemployment TEA, the location must have an unemployment rate that is equivalent to at least 150% of the national average. It also needs to be located within a county or statistical area that has a population of at least 20,000.
Job creation requirements
Economic growth isn’t just denominated in dollars and cents; the EB-5 program is also intended to create new jobs.
In order to obtain this visa, you need to prove that your investment will create 10 new full-time jobs within two years after you receive your permanent residency. If you apply in a project that is run under the Regional Center pilot program, those jobs can be created directly, indirectly or can be induced as a result of your investment.
How to apply for an EB-5 visa
You will need to complete four steps before the US authorities can grant you an EB-5 visa. Once you are accepted into the program, you will receive your permanent residency, and will be able to bring your spouse and any dependent children under 21 with you.
1. Choose an EB-5 project
You won’t be entirely on your own when it’s time to choose a project for your investment. In fact, the great majority of EB-5 investors choose to go with a regional center, which is a management company that has special designation from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to run EB-5 projects.
Regional centers span many different industries, from education and energy to hospitality and assisted living, so you are bound to find a good fit for your investment. If you choose to invest with a regional center, you must meet accredited investor income requirements as outlined by the SEC (in this case, an individual income of $200,000 in the past year, or $300,000 between you and your spouse).
2. Capital investment and I-526 petition
You will be making your actual investment during this step, typically using an escrow account. Once you have transferred the funds, you will need an immigration lawyer to issue an I-526 petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as proof of investment.
This part of the process can take time: USCIS will usually get back to you with a decision within 18 to 20 months. If the petition is denied, most regional centers have mechanisms in place to refund your investment. Make sure you get the right confirmations on this before proceeding with any designated project.
3. Conditional permanent residency
If you already have lawful status in the U.S. when your investment is approved, you will need to submit an I-485 application to change your status to “conditional permanent resident.” If you do not have lawful status, you will need to submit form DS-620 to the National Visa Center. If you are approved, your conditional permanent resident visa will be issued within six to 12 months.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations – you can now work on your EB-5 project in the United States. Your conditional green card will be valid for two years.
4. Unconditional permanent residency
Once your two years are up, you will need to become an unconditional permanent resident if you wish to remain in the United States. You will need to submit the I-829 petition to USCIS 90 days before the two-year anniversary of receiving your conditional residency.
If you have indeed met all of the EB-5 requirements outlined above, you will be accepted as an unconditional resident within 22 to 45 months of submitting your I-829. Once you have your permanent green card, you and your spouse (and any unmarried children under 21) will be able to apply for citizenship five years from the date that you received your conditional residency.