What is an EB-5 visa?

The EB-5 visa is a way to get your green card and permanent residency through investment. The EB-5 investor visa program enables foreigners who make an investment in a U.S. business to obtain a green card and become lawful permanent residents, and eventual citizens, of the United States. The investment can lead to a green card for the investor to permanently live and work in the United States with their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. The EB-5 visa program is operated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The program was established by the United States Congress in 1990 to facilitate increased investment in the U.S. economy.

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EB-5 Visa Immigrant Investment Requirements

To meet EB-5 investor visa requirements, foreign investors must make an “at risk” capital investment in a for-profit U.S. business entity. The required investment amount is either $500,000 or $1 million, depending on which project you invest in. If you invest in a targeted employment area (TEA) the investment is $500,000, if you invest elsewhere the minimum required investment is $1 million. EB-5 investments must lead to the creation of 10 fulltime U.S. jobs for at least two years.

How Many EB-5 Visas Are Issued Each Year?

USCIS reserves 10,000 visas for EB-5 investors each fiscal year. This 10,000 visa quota has never been met. There was a drastic increase in the number of EB-5 program participants in 2011, with more than 3,000 investors applying to the program. Roughly 3,500 EB-5 visas were issued in the 2011 fiscal year which marked an 80 percent increase from 2010. This growth can be attributed to increased confidence in the program due to USCIS transparency, efficiencies in the application process, and growth in the number of regional centers established across the United States.

Fiscal year EB-5 Applicants
2005 332
2006 486
2007 776
2008 1,257
2009 1,028
2010 1,955
2011 3,805
2012 2,771
Total 12,410

April 23, 2012 Quarterly Data on I-526 Receipts released by the USCIS Office of Performance and Quality

EB-5 Regional Centers

EB-5 investor visa applicants have two main investment options. They can either invest directly or through an EB-5 Regional Center. Direct investors must find their own investment project and must take a direct managerial role in overseeing that project. Direct investment is best for those who want more hands-on control of their investment and the project that received their investment.

EB-5 investor visa applicants can also make their investment in an EB-5 Regional Center. This option may be best for those who are more interested in the immigration goals of EB-5 rather than obtaining a maximum return on their investment. Regional centers receive designation from USCIS to administer EB-5 investment projects. Regional centers are responsible for adhering to USCIS EB-5 program regulations. This takes strain off of the investors so that they are not solely responsible for meeting program requirements. As a result, investment through regional centers suits those who want a more hands-off approach, where they are not responsible for the direct management of their investment. Roughly 90 percent of all EB-5 applicants invest through a regional center.

Job Creation Requirements

According to USCIS, the EB-5 investment must preserve or create a minimum of 10 full-time positions for workers in the United States who qualify. This creation, or preservation, of jobs must occur within two years of the investor’s conditional permanent residency and entrance into the United States. Jobs created in EB-5 projects are defined as direct, indirect or induced. In the direct investment context, the EB-5 visa applicant must prove that the EB-5 capital resulted in the actualization of direct jobs of employees working directly in the business in which the investment was made. In the regional center context, the applicant can count direct, indirect, and induced jobs toward the job creation requirement.

EB-5 Investor Visa Application Proccess Overview

EB-5 visa applicants must follow three general steps to obtain U.S. permanent residency:

  1. EB-5 visa applicants must follow three general steps to obtain U.S. permanent residency:

    • Individual business that will create 10 direct fulltime U.S. jobs per investor (direct investment) OR

    • In a USCIS-designated regional center where the investor may create 10 direct, indirect and/ or induced jobs per investor.

  2. Upon I-526 approval, the investor submits their conditional permanent resident application either through the filing of an I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status, or DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa. This is the petition that will confer the green card to the investor and his eligible dependents.

  3. Lastly, the investors must prove that all EB-5 requirements have been met at the end of the two year conditional residency by filing the I-829 application to remove conditions of residency. The investor, their spouse, and their unmarried children under the age of 21 then become lawful permanent residents and receive their ten year green cards.

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