In 1990, under section 203(b)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. Â§ 1153(b)(5) the US Congress created the fifth employment-based preference (EB-5) immigrant visa category. Each year, the provision grants 10,000 immigrant visas to qualified individuals seeking permanent resident status on the basis that their investment in a new commercial enterprise that will benefit the US economy.
To encourage immigration through the EB-5 program, U.S. Congress created the Regional Center Pilot Program in 1993. The program specifically sets aside 3,000 visas each year for foreign investors who apply through a United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) designated Regional Center. An investor seeking an EB-5 immigrant visa through a designated Regional Center must generally make a qualifying investment of $1,000,000 USD. For businesses in rural areas or in Targeted Employment Areas (TEA) with higher-than-normal levels unemployment, investors applying for an EB-5 visa may qualify with a lesser investment of $500,000. Additionally, the foreign investor must demonstrate that the investment created at least 10 U.S. jobs through direct, indirect, and induced effects. Green Card Fund specializes in EB-5 projects in Targeted Employment Areas that create jobs in excess of the USCIS requirement of 10 jobs per investor.
When investing through a Regional Center, the minimum capital investment requirement is $500,000 USD when you select a project in a designated rural area or Targeted Employment Area (TEA). For other projects not meeting these criteria, the capital investment requirement is $1,000,000 USD.
A Targeted Employment Area, or TEA, is a geographic area in the United States which is either Rural (has a population of less than 20,000), is not part of an MSA, or has an unemployment rate that is 150% of the national average.
There are many benefits to obtaining a U.S. Green Card. Each person has his or her own reasons for wanting permanent residence in the United States, and having a Green Card provides many benefits that help investors to accomplish their goals. Some of the benefits of securing a U.S. Green Card include:
• All legal permanent residents under the EB-5 Investor Program enjoy the same rights and benefits as every other lawful resident of the United States.
• The U.S. is a safe harbor for your family as well as for your personal and business assets. Any member of your family with a Green Card can enter the United States at any time and stay as long as he or she wishes.
• EB-5 investors holding Green Cards have access to the United States for personal, trade and business purposes.
• Permanent residents travel to the U.S. without the need of a visa.
• EB-5 investors may work, live, or own their own businesses anywhere in the United States.
• The U.S. has internationally recognized colleges and universities for both undergraduate education and graduate study. As a permanent resident, EB-5 investors can benefit from lower tuition costs associated with U.S. residency.
• The cost of living in the U.S. is less than most large industrial nations. Consumer goods, services, and housing are significantly less expensive than comparable services and goods in most other countries.
• Students may work in the U.S. while they attend college and then continue to work afterwards, enabling the student to pay for part of his education and to work while attending graduate and postgraduate studies.
• The U.S. provides many financial, social and education entitlements – public schools, health and medical attention, social security, and education.
• The Investor has the ability to bring other family members to the U.S. after proper application, and can obtain U.S. citizenship after 5 years of residing in the U.S.
The investor, spouse, and all unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible to receive Green Cards through the EB-5 program.
The investor is not required to have any prior business experience. Likewise, the investor is not required to demonstrate any minimum level of education. The only requirements for the investor are that he or she has the required investment amount from lawfully obtained capital and is able to provide the necessary personal background documentation to the USCIS.
No, the USCIS does not require you to speak English in order to be eligible for the EB-5 program. However, all documents submitted with your EB-5 application (Form I-526) must be English documents signed by the investor. Any non-English documents need to be accompanied by a certified translation.
Under USCIS regulations, the investor must demonstrate or provide proof that his assets were gained in a lawful manner. This requires the investor to prove his investment funds were obtained through lawful business, salary, investments, property sales, inheritance, gift, loan, or other lawful means.
Yes, provided that any applicable gift taxes are paid. It must also be demonstrated that the gift is an actual “arms-length” transaction and is not a mere ruse or that the gifted funds will be given back after permanent resident status is granted.
In short, no. According to USCIS regulations, investors acting as limited partners in a limited partnership that conforms to the Uniform Limited Partnership Act are deemed to be sufficiently engaged in the EB-5 project. This means that as a limited partner, investors are not required to actively participate in the management or operation of the new commercial enterprise in order to qualify for a Permanent Green Card through the Regional Center Pilot Program.
The Regional Center acts as General Partner of the Limited Partnership and will oversee the interests of all members of the Limited Partnership by being responsible for the day to day management of the Limited Partnership and reporting on the progress of the project.
No. The EB-5 visa program allows investors to maintain their Permanent Residency by living anywhere of their choosing within the United States.
The beauty of the EB-5 Regional Center Pilot Program is that there is no such thing as an ideal investor. Foreign investors who participate in the EB-5 program include people from a wide variety of countries, cultures, and personal or professional backgrounds.
Technically, yes, a person from any country in the world is eligible to apply for an EB-5 visa. However, some countries have less than reliable tax and financial documentation which will require persons from those countries to actively work to provide adequate source of funds authentication to the USCIS.
All of the relevant forms can be found on the USCIS website or conveniently displayed in our EB-5 Resource Library here.
Under USCIS regulations, an investor who gets approved for an EB-5 investor visa receives a conditional Green Card that is valid for two years. One year and nine months after the conditional Green Card is issued, a three-month window opens up during which an investor files another application with the USCIS to verify that all funds have been invested and that job creation requirements have been met.
When the conditions are removed from the temporary Green Card, full resident status is granted and a permanent Green Card is issued to the investor. Otherwise, the two cards offer the same rights and privileges.
In order to complete the EB-5 process and become a permanent U.S. resident, foreign investors must work through three steps:
- Step 1: USCIS Form I-526 – Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur. This is your first official step in the EB-5 process after completing your Accredited Investor Questionnaire, choosing a Project, signing all of the proper documents to subscribe to a Regional Center Project, and placing your funds in escrow with the project. The I-526 Application is submitted to the USCIS by your immigration attorney along with supporting documentation that clearly demonstrates that your investment meets all EB-5 requirements.
- Step 2: USCIS Form I-485/Consular Review. After receiving approval of the I-526 Application, investors already residing in the U.S. may submit a completed Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485) to the USCIS. For investors residing outside of the U.S. – the process is similar but requires the investor to apply for an immigrant visa at the US Consulate in their country of residence.
- Step 3: USCIS Form I-829 – Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions. One year and nine months after initial I-526 approval, investors can file a completed Form I-829 with the USCIS to have conditions removed from their Green Card and establish permanent residency. With this petition, the investor must demonstrate that the investment was sustained throughout the two-year conditional period and that job creation requirements were met by the project. During this process, the investor is aided by their chosen Regional Center in providing the requisite documentation. Upon approval of the I-829 application, full permanent resident status is given to the investor and his or her spouse and any unmarried children under 21 years of age.
Upon approval of your I-526 Petition, you must wait for notification from the US Consulate in your home country to prepare documents for the Visa interview. The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that the investor and his or her family undergo medical, police, security and immigration history checks before conditional permanent resident visas are issued. At the interview, the consulate officer may address these issues as well as information printed on the I-526 application – including asking the investor to summarize the nature of his or her immigrant investment. If the investor and his or her family are in the United States, then you may apply for adjustment of status by filing form I-485 along with supporting documents at the appropriate office of the USCIS.
Rejection in the past does not disqualify the applicant, unless the reasons are related to immigration fraud or other major problems. It is most important that all criminal, medical, or U.S. immigration history problems be disclosed to the limited partnership and legal counsel in advance of submitting your application.
Family members can interview in different countries. The country of origin or where the family has current ties is the standard interview site. Often one member of the family is located in another country, such as a student attending school in the U.S. The student does not have to return to the country of origin and can adjust status in the United States at the district office of the USCIS.
The most common problem area for investors has been insufficient documentation of the source of funds. Many people try to disclose the least possible information only to have the file returned with a request for further information. It is better to provide too much information rather than too little information. In this era of terror alerts and suspicions about money laundering, USCIS adjudicators require a well-documented source of funds.
The first requirement of any investor after they receive the visa at the United States overseas consulate office is to enter the United States within 180 days of visa issuance from the consulate. The investor must then establish residency in the United States. Evidence of intent to reside includes opening bank accounts, obtaining a driver’s license or social security number, paying state and federal income taxes, and renting or buying a home. The United States resident may work overseas if required based upon the nature of the business or profession. However, all permanent residents must remain in the U.S. for more than 6 months out of each year, or they may be deemed to have abandoned their permanent residency status.
Once you obtain a Green Card and become a permanent legal resident, you have most of the rights and obligations of U.S. citizens, except that you cannot vote and are not entitled to certain public benefits. You are subject to the same tax filing requirements and entitled to the same tax rates and deductions as U.S. citizens.
One of the most important rights legal permanent residents possess is the right to apply for U.S. Citizenship after residing in the United States for five (5) years. There are two ways to become a U.S. citizen. One is by being born in the U.S. or being born to a U.S. citizen. The other is by way of naturalization. The first step in becoming a U.S. Citizen through the naturalization process is to become a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR). Being an LPR for 5 years is one of the basic requirements necessary to qualify for naturalization. A second requirement is maintaining a physical presence in the U.S. for a minimum of 30 months during the 5 years prior to the submission of your application for naturalization. Once you are naturalized and become a U.S. citizen, you are entitled to additional benefits including the right to vote and hold public office.
An Escrow Bank Account is a legal holding account established in a reputable bank. This type of account is commonly used in the sale of real estate, businesses and personal property. In order to comply with the requirements of EB-5, an investor must transfer the $500,000 capital investment amount to the Project Escrow Account before filing their I-526 application for an EB-5 visa. Part of the application process requires the investor to prove that the investment amount has been invested in the United States. Typically, proof of invested capital consists of Wire Transfer receipts and Confirmation of Funds letters issued by the bank.
The initial cash deposit from the investor is placed in an Escrow Bank Account. When an Escrow Bank Account is established, the funds continue to belong to the investor. The attorney or bank has an agreement with the investor that allows the funds to be released from the account only after the investor’s I-526 petition has been received by the USCIS.