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The Benefits of Converting a H-1B Visa to an EB-5 Visa

Most foreign workers in the U.S. on H-1B visas enjoy the benefits of good jobs and American life. But they also live under a cloud of apprehension, knowing that, should anything happen to their employment status—a layoff, for instance, or a closure—they’ll likely have to return to their country of origin. For those who qualify, transitioning to an EB-5 visa can mean staying in the U.S. for as long as they choose, regardless of employment status—and even becoming eligible for citizenship.

The path from an H-1B visa to an EB-5 can be complicated, but it’s not out of reach for entrepreneurs looking to invest in the U.S. and create new jobs. Here’s how it works.

Differences Between H-1B and EB-5 Visas

The H-1B visa is a temporary visa, allowing employees to stay in the U.S. for up to three years—potentially six if they meet certain requirements. This process can be incredibly slow, since only 65,000 new visas are offered each year. 

Workers who land H-1B visas run into a new set of worries when they arrive in the U.S., since visas are directly connected to employer sponsorship. H-1B visa holders who lose their jobs stands to lose their immediate employment authorizations as well—and, with them, the ability to stay in the U.S. legally. Visa holders who don’t find new employment within a specific period could be deported. 

EB-5 visas, on the other hand, offer greater stability. They provide permanent residency to the visa holder, their spouse, and their unmarried minor children, and, since they’re geared towards investors rather than workers, are not contingent on employment. They also allow applicants to avoid long wait times. India and China, however, are currently retrogressed—meaning the number of approved EB-5 petitions remaining from these countries exceeds their allotment—adding 2 to 10 years to these countries’ visa approval period. 

Foreign nationals investing in projects in rural areas in the U.S., infrastructure, or high unemployment targeted employment area (TEAs), can avoid retrogression and skip to the front of the line. 

Transitioning to an EB-5 Visa

Obtaining a U.S. green card is also streamlined with an EB-5 visa. Foreign nationals investing $800,000 in a project that creates at least 10 jobs in the U.S. are eligible. Investors have the option to choose what investments they want to make; these decisions will impact the application process. For example, if they choose regional center investments, they may not need to engage managerial workers, and the job creation requirements will be more relaxed. 

As part of the updates to the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act, investors who are in the U.S. on a valid visa, like the H-1B, can now concurrently file an Adjustment of Status filing at the same time as their EB-5 petition, allowing the investor to work and travel for six to nine months while waiting for approval of their green card application. But as an investor trying to invest from inside the U.S., you must prove that you are an accredited investor. 

To qualify as an accredited investor, you must

  • Earn $200,000 on your own for two consecutive years and expect to make the same amount for the current year, OR
  • Earn a combined income with your spouse of $300,000 for two consecutive years, and expect to make the same amount for the current year, OR
  • Have a net worth of $1 million, on your own or with your spouse, which can be based on any assets, excluding your primary residence.

If you don’t meet any of these requirements, you can still invest in EB-5 projects as the manager of an entrepreneurial or direct investment project. Additionally, if you currently hold an H-1B visa, you are also allowed to own and manage your own companies and invest in other existing businesses under the EB-5 program—so long as you can prove you can meet the job creation and investment requirements.

The part of the EB-5 visa process that most applicants find time-consuming is proving that the sources of their investment capital are lawful. Since many H-1B visa holders are already high-earners and have accumulated wealth through their current employment, proving the legitimacy of their funds is usually not difficult. 

Steps to Achieve EB-5 Status

After you have decided what type of investment project works best for you, you must:

  1. Invest the required capital and file an I-526 petition
  2. Secure conditional permanent residency by filing Form 1-485 
  3. After two years, file an I-829 petition to remove the conditions from your permanent resident status 

With permanent resident status—also known as a green card—you’re able to live securely in the U.S. for as long you like. You’re even eligible to apply for citizenship if you choose.

EB-5 Regional Center in Texas 

Founded in 2010, Houston EB5 helps qualified investors gain permanent U.S. residency through the EB-5 visa program. If you’re interested in converting your H-1B visa to an EB-5, call our offices today at 281-545-7943 or send us a message online. Our consultants are ready to help guide you through the process.

Houston EB5 is a USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) approved regional center.