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EB-5 Visa Basics

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EB-5 Visa Overview

EB-5 visas enable foreigners to immigrate to the United States if they make an investment in a U.S. business. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administers the EB-5 immigrant investor program. EB-5 visas, also known as Employment Based Fifth Preference visas, are immigrant visas. This means that EB-5 visa holders are granted a green card which allows them to eventually permanently live and work in the United States. EB-5 visa holders can also bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States. Recent improvements towards transparency in the EB-5 investor program by USCIS have led to a greater number of program applicants in recent years. Browse below to learn more about the history of the EB-5 program, EB-5 requirements, the steps of EB-5, EB-5 Regional Centers, permanent residency, and U.S. citizenship.

EB-5 History

The EB-5 visa program was established by the United States Congress in 1990. The Immigration Act of 1990 created the program to facilitate U.S. economic growth through foreign investment. In 1993, Congress sparked more interest in the EB-5 program by creating the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program which established USCIS designated EB-5 Regional Centers. Congress and USCIS have made a number of further EB-5 reforms aimed at eliminating fraud, standardizing application adjudication, increasing the application process, and dedicating more staff to the program. These reforms have contributed to the drastic increase in EB-5 program participation in recent years.

EB-5 Requirements

There are several requirements that foreign investors must meet to qualify for an EB-5 visa. Investors must make the required capital investment in a U.S. business. The required investment is typically either $500,000 or $1 million, depending on where the business that receives the investment is located. Regardless of the amount, the EB-5 investment must lead to the creation of 10 fulltime U.S. jobs for at least a two year period. EB-5 investments must also be made in an approved business entity. Approved business entities include new for-profit commercial businesses that can take one of many business structures. EB-5 visa applicants can also invest in regional centers that oversee EB-5 investment projects.

EB-5 Steps

There are four main steps in the EB-5 visa application process. First, applicants must locate the U.S. business entity that they would like to invest in. Secondly, the applicants must make their required capital investment in the chosen business and must submit an I-526 petition. Thirdly, the applicant must obtain their conditional permanent residency, which allows them to move to the United States to oversee their investment for two years. Applicants are granted their two year conditional permanent residency after the approval of either the I-526 application, if the investor is already in the United States, or the DS-230 application, if the investor is outside the United States. Lastly, the applicant must prove that they have successfully met all EB-5 program requirements by filing the I-829 application after two years. EB-5 investors are granted unconditional permanent residency once the I-829 application has been approved.

EB-5 Regional Centers

There are two investment options for EB-5 visa applicants. EB-5 applicants can facilitate their investment as an individual (direct) or can invest through an EB-5 Regional Center. If the applicant invests as an individual, then they must find their own project to invest in. They must also take a direct managerial role in overseeing their investment project. EB-5 applicants can also invest through EB-5 Regional Centers. EB-5 Regional Centers have USCIS designation to administer EB-5 investment projects. EB-5 investment through a regional center carries several advantages. Regional centers are subject to more flexible EB-5 job creation requirements and can also typically pool greater investment amounts by attracting multiple investors. Regional centers must also actively adhere to USCIS regulations, which can help take strain off of investors who would otherwise be solely responsible for meeting all guidelines. Regional centers enable the investor to take a more hands-off approach to the EB-5 program by requiring less direct involvement. Approximately 90 percent of applicants make their investment through a regional center.

U.S. Permanent Residency

Immigrants who successfully complete the EB-5 visa program by having their I-829 application accepted become lawful permanent residents of the United States. Permanent residents are given a green card, which enables to live and work in the United States permanently. Permanent residents can live and work anywhere in the United States. Permanent residents can travel without needing a visa and can work in the United States without needing sponsorship from a U.S. employer. Permanent residency can also be granted to the EB-5 investor’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21.

U.S. Citizenship

EB-5 investors have the opportunity to become United States citizens after they complete the EB-5 program. To qualify to become a U.S. citizen, the EB-5 visa holders must first be permanent residents for at least five years. Then the EB-5 visa holder can go through the naturalization process which enables them to become United States citizens. U.S. citizens enjoy even more rights over permanent residents. Citizens are granted voting rights that enable them to participate in federal, state, and local public elections. Sponsoring foreign family members is also easier for U.S. citizens. Citizens also become eligible for certain government benefit programs.

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