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The Basics of the EB-5 Program

As with any government program, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is subject to continuous changes in its regulations and processing methods as implemented by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In particular, 2019 and 2020 have brought with them several changes, and more are yet to come. The ever-changing environment causes confusion among EB-5 investors, but this article is intended to answer the questions you have about the EB-5 program.

Can I still invest in the EB-5 program?

The EB-5 program itself will be around indefinitely—investors will always be able to invest in EB-5 projects directly. In addition, the EB-5 Regional Center Program has been extended until the end of September 2020, with more updates available on USCIS’s website. Most EB-5 investors prefer to work with regional centers because of the relaxed job creation requirement. A further benefit is the reduced requirement for hands-on managerial input at the new commercial enterprise (NCE).

How much do I have to invest in an EB-5 project?

As a result of the EB-5 Modernization Rule going into effect in November 2019, the minimum required investment amounts increased for the first time in EB-5 history. If you invest in an EB-5 project with targeted unemployment area (TEA) designation, you must invest at least $900,000. If your project is not in a TEA, you will have to invest at least $1.8 million. These amounts are now subject to increase every five years, so the next increase will be in 2024.

What are my investment options for the EB-5 program?

You have two options for EB-5 investment: direct investment and regional center investment. No matter which path you choose, if your investment is successful, you’ll receive a green card that allows you to live, work, and study freely in the United States. Your spouse and children (as long as they are unmarried and younger than 21) can also receive EB-5 green cards.

If you’re experienced in project management and want to be heavily involved in the day-to-day management of the EB-5 project,direct investment may be right for you. If you have the skills, you can potentially generate substantial financial profit from your direct EB-5 investment.

If you would prefer to be minimally involved in the NCE’s management, regional center investment may be right for you. Regional centers scout out high-quality EB-5 projects that are likely to succeed, minimizing your financial and immigration risk, and the regional center’s involvement in the project means you don’t need to do much. As a bonus, if you invest through a regional center, you are also permitted to count indirect and induced jobs toward the requirement of creating 10 full-time jobs.

Many prospective EB-5 investors believe that a project must be affiliated with a regional center to be eligible for the $900,000 investment amount, but in fact, any project can qualify as long as it is located within a TEA. The majority of regional center projects do, however, qualify for the lower investment amount because regional centers intentionally select projects that are more attractive to investors.

How long does the EB-5 process take?

The answer depends on your unique circumstances—there is no one-size-fits-all answer. As of March 2020, investors can expect to wait around three or four years until their I-526 petition is processed.

The following are some of the factors that influence an EB-5 investor’s wait time:

  • Country of citizenship – applicants from some countries are subjected to country-based backlogs
  • Complexity of the I-526 application – some investors may have difficulty tracing the source of their capital
  • Previous processing times

What processing methodology does USCIS use for I-526 petitions?

One of the changes being rolled out in the EB-5 program is the switch from the traditional first-in-first-out (FIFO) I-526 processing method to a visa visa-availability approach. Beginning March 31, 2020, USCIS will prioritize the adjudication of I-526 petitions whose applicants hail from countries for which there are visas immediately available. If you are from an underrepresented EB-5 country, you stand to benefit from the switch, but if the EB-5 demand from your country is high, you may be forced to wait even longer.

Who should participate in the EB-5 program?

If you’re a foreign investor who wishes to become a permanent resident of the United States, the EB-5 program may be for you. As long as you have the necessary capital, you and your family can apply for U.S. green cards under the EB-5 program. Once you receive your green card, you will be permitted to live, work, study, do business, and travel all around the United States. You can improve the future of your children by enrolling them in the U.S. public education system and easing the U.S. college admissions process for them.

How can I qualify to invest in the EB-5 program?

To invest in the EB-5 program, you must be a foreign national with enough wealth to invest either $900,000 or $1.8 million in an EB-5 project. The capital you invest must all have been obtained legally—you will be required to source the funds to prove their lawful sources. If you already live in the United States on a different visa, you must obtain accredited investor status in order to invest.

What is accepted as EB-5 capital?

You can use more or less any liquid assets as EB-5 capital as long as they were obtained legally. You may use, among other sources, income, loans, investments, gifts, sales of assets, and inheritance.

Once I have conditional permanent resident status under the EB-5 program, can I work and study in the United States?

Upon approval of your I-526 petition, you will be eligible to apply for conditional permanent resident status for yourself and your family. Even during your two years of conditional permanent residence, you may live, work, and study freely anywhere in the country. If you have invested through a regional center, you are not bound to the location of your EB-5 project, so you could invest in an EB-5 project in Florida but live in New York.

What should I do to get started with the EB-5 program?

Before doing anything else, you should consult with an immigration attorney with expertise in the EB-5 program. The immigration attorney will be able to answer your specific questions and help you determine whether the EB-5 program is the best choice for you, your family, and your investment goals. If you would like more general information on the EB-5 program, reach out to the EB5AN team anytime.

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