The United States attracts millions of visitors every year. However, while visitors find it comparatively easy to secure a tourist visa, it is significantly harder for foreign nationals to make the United States their permanent home.
Most pathways to U.S. permanent residency are based on employment. These visas are often subject to high demand, with the popular H-1B visa resorting to a lottery system, and political restrictions like former President Trump’s immigration ban.
By contrast, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is one of the simplest and quickest ways to achieve U.S. permanent residency. Thousands of families receive permanent residency every year under this program in exchange for qualifying investment in a U.S. business. The minimum investment amount is $1.8 million, which falls to $900,000 if the project qualifies for targeted employment area (TEA) status.
The EB-5 Program’s Details
In 1990, Congress created the EB-5 investment program to stimulate the U.S. economy and create jobs in rural and high-unemployment areas using foreign capital. If United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decide that an investor’s initial I-526 petition is more likely than not to qualify for the program, USCIS grants conditional residency for a two-year period. Toward the end of this conditional residency period, investors must file an I-829 petition with more information detailing how their EB-5 investment satisfied the program’s requirements. If investors’ petitions are adjudicated favorably, conditions to their permanent residency status will be removed, granting them a green card or unconditional permanent residency.
Direct Investment vs. Regional Center Investment
Those interested in participating in the EB-5 investment program can either invest directly in an EB-5 project or indirectly through a regional center. Both options have merit for investors, and both can end in the same positive outcome of the return of investment capital and permanent residency for the investor. However, most EB-5 investors invest through a regional center for this pathway’s increased flexibility and security.
Direct investment is often used by investors with extensive managerial experience. These investors are typically interested in maximizing their investment’s financial return. By investing directly, these investors are required to be involved in the day-to-day running of the new commercial enterprise (NCE). The EB-5 investment program requires that the creation of 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers comes from either the NCE’s direct hires or construction jobs that last a minimum of two years for direct investment projects.
Regional center investment is typically used by investors without extensive managerial experience or those more concerned with receiving permanent residency than making a major return on their investment. Regional centers are usually run by industry experts who find projects located in TEAs that will allow investors to sign on as a limited partner. Investing through a regional center also makes it easier to meet the job creation requirements. Instead of counting only directly created jobs, regional center projects also count indirect and induced job creation. This non-direct job creation is estimated by a reputable third party, usually an economist.
What Are the EB-5 Program’s Requirements?
Other immigration programs have far more stringent restrictions than the EB-5 investment program. The EB-5 program does not take into account the investor’s educational background, profession, or language ability. Instead, investors are required to invest capital that meets the minimum investment requirements and prove that this capital was lawfully obtained. This capital must then result in the creation of 10 jobs for U.S. workers.
What Is the Minimum Required Investment Amount?
To qualify for the EB-5 investment program, investors must invest a minimum of $1.8 million, which is halved to $900,000 when investors invest in projects located within a TEA. These areas of the country either have a population of less than 20,000 or an unemployment rate 50% higher than the national average.
Proving the Investment Was Sourced Lawfully
To qualify for permanent residency, an investor must prove that their capital was sourced lawfully. So long as the lawful origins are proved, the funds themselves can come from a wide variety of sources. Immigration attorneys become relevant during this part of the process and are often highly skilled at documenting the sources of funds.
Keeping the EB-5 Investment “At Risk”
Investors must keep their EB-5 investment “at risk” for the duration of the entire investment period. This period includes the two years of conditional permanent residency. In some cases of lengthy visa backlogs, investors have redeployed capital to satisfy this at-risk requirement.
The EB-5 Investment Program’s Job Creation Requirements
A major requirement of the EB-5 program is that the investment creates a minimum of 10 new, full-time jobs for U.S. workers for the investor to qualify for unconditional permanent residency. Most investors opt for regional center investments because of the flexibility to include indirect job creation in the 10-job minimum.
Why Should You Invest in the EB-5 Program?
There are many reasons to consider immigrating to the United States, ranging from the premier educational opportunities to the powerful economy. If you are a foreign national interested in immigrating, the EB-5 investment program may be the best path for you. The program provides immigration and investment security while also allowing you to help your new country’s economy.