What is the EB-5 Visa Program?
In 1990, the United States Congress created the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. This visa category is targeted towards qualified foreign nationals seeking to obtain lawful permanent residency by investing in the U.S. economy and creating at least 10 full-time U.S. jobs. Currently, the program is administered by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). The required investment is $1.05 million, but can be reduced to $800,000 if the target investment occurs in a targeted employment area (TEA), which is defined as a rural or high unemployment area.
In 1992, Congress created an additional component of the standard EB-5 program, the Regional Center Pilot Program. A Regional Center is a private or public entity designated by USCIS that is authorized to coordinate with multiple immigrant investors and to pool their investments for greater economic impact. Regional Centers are authorized to operate within defined geographic regions that require approval by the USCIS through a rigorous application process. These Regional Center geographic scopes can be cities, counties, or entire states.
There are several differences between the standard EB-5 program and the Regional Center Program. The Regional Center Program allows the use of economic modeling to determine the direct, indirect and induced job impacts related to each investor’s capital contribution. This means that in the Regional Center Program, the EB-5 participant (investor) can count direct, indirect, and induced job creation as a result of their EB-5 investment. The Regional Center operator benefits investors by conducting all the upfront due diligence, underwriting, and managing of the EB-5 investment through all stages of the investment and immigration process.
There are several steps in the EB-5 immigration process for an investor to earn a green card. Once the investor selects a regional center and project, the investor would then work with their immigration attorney to file their I-526E petition requesting conditional residency. The USCIS then reviews and determines whether the investor and qualifying family members qualify for the conditional EB-5 visa(s). This part of the process includes a detailed review of the sources of the investor’s funds, family history, and other representations of the investor and family members included in the petition. This petition, (through association to the regional center’s I-956F petition) also includes a thorough description of the EB-5 investment project and any economic models used to determine job creation. If approved (an I-526E petition approval), the investor will schedule a consular interview to then receive a conditional green card that is valid for two years. Then the investor and family would declare residency in the United States.
Near the end of the two-year period of conditional residency, the investor’s immigration attorney would file another petition with USCIS to remove their conditions (Form I-829). This petition demonstrates that the EB-5 participant’s capital was fully invested and at risk during the two-year period and that the requisite 10 qualifying jobs have been created. Upon approval of the I-829, the investor and family members become lawful permanent residents and can ultimately choose to become U.S. citizens.
The U.S. EB-5 visa is a permanent visa and requires no future re-qualification, offering more advantages and fewer constraints than any other visa program in the world. The EB-5 visa has no requirements regarding age, business training, management skills, experience, or language skills.