The immigrant investor, or EB-5, program is a highly beneficial permanent residence option for the wealthy individual. Since there is no quota waiting list in this preference category, it enables a foreign national to obtain permanent residence status more expeditiously than with most other options.
The EB-5 category requires an investment of $1 million (or $500,000 in a high unemployment or rural area) in a commercial enterprise that will employ 10 full-time US workers. Although the investor’s role cannot be completely passive, he or she does not have to be involved in any way in the day-to-day management of the business unless he or she wants to do so. It is critically important that the investor be able to document the lawful source of investment funds, whether his or her own or funds given to him or her as a gift. The permanent residence obtained by the investor is conditional for two years and can be made permanent upon satisfying USCIS at the end of the two years that the investment proceeds have not been withdrawn and the requisite jobs have been created.
The investor may invest in his or her own commercial enterprise or in a commercial enterprise owned by other parties. The investor may also choose to invest in a pre-approved “regional center”. Regional centers are government-approved entities in designated geographical areas for which USCIS has determined that investments will create the necessary 10 jobs per investor, whether directly or indirectly. Virtually all of the regional centers contain geographical areas where $500,000 is the required amount of investment.
Under federal law, 10,000 immigrant visas per year are available to qualified individuals seeking permanent resident status on the basis of their engagement in a new commercial enterprise. This visa program is popularly called the EB-5 visa program.
Permanent resident status based on EB-5 eligibility might be available to investors who have invested – or are actively in the process of investing – at least $1,000,000 into a new commercial enterprise that they have established. A new commercial enterprise includes: the creation of an original business, the purchase of an existing business and restructuring or reorganizing the business to the extent that a new commercial enterprise results, or expanding upon an existing business. An applicant seeking status as an immigrant investor must demonstrate that his/her investment will benefit the United States economy and create full-time employment for no fewer than ten qualified individuals, or maintain the number of existing employees in a “troubled business.”
If the investment in a new commercial enterprise is made in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), the required investment is decreased to the $500,000 investment level. A TEA is either a “high unemployment area” in an urban setting (being part of a metropolitan statistical area) that has experienced an unemployment rate of at least 150 percent of the national average rate or a “rural area.”
Applicants to the EB-5 visa program must demonstrate that they meet all requirements of the program prior to filing with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If it is determined that the investment criteria is met and properly documented, an investor may be granted conditional permanent residence status for a period of two years. At the end of the conditional period a permanent green card may be issued. An investor may apply for U.S. citizenship five years after the initial grant of conditional permanent residence.
For more detailed information about the EB-5 visa program, its laws and administration please visit www.uscis.gov.