Canadians who wish to work and live permanently in the United States should strongly consider an investment in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The EB5 program is widely considered to be the quickest and most straightforward route for foreign nationals to obtain U.S. permanent resident status, for themselves and their immediate family.
This article will explain the basics of the EB5 program, how to obtain permanent resident status, and the EB-5 visa’s benefits for Canadians.
What is the EB-5 Program?
The U.S. government established the EB-5 program in 1990, as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, to bring investment into the United States and, in the process, result in job creation for U.S. workers. In return, foreign investors who invest in eligible commercial enterprises become eligible for permanent residency (a Green Card) under the Immigration Act.
There are two key requirements for an investment under the EB-5 program. Firstly, the investor must provide a minimum investment amount in a new commercial enterprise (NCE). If the NCE is located in a targeted employment area (TEA), the minimum investment is $800,000. If outside a TEA, then the minimum is $1,050,000.
A TEA is a rural area or an area of high unemployment. A capital investment in a TEA is designed to stimulate the area’s local economy and help in job creation. EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) has developed a national TEA map that shows whether an NCE is located in a TEA.
The second key requirement for a capital investment under the EB 5 program is that it creates and sustains at least ten full-time positions for U.S. workers for a minimum of two years.
There are two capital investment models under the EB 5 program. Investors can invest directly in a qualifying NCE or invest as one of a pool of investors in an NCE sponsored by an EB-5 regional center. Under the EB-5 Regional Center Program, regional centers are economic entities approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They manage EB5 investor capital across multiple projects in the EB-5 industry and ensure that USCIS requirements are met.
The direct investment model often suits investors who want to own and operate their own commercial businesses. Typically, restaurants, retail, service, manufacturing, technology, and agricultural businesses make good direct investment options.
In contrast, multiple EB 5 investors pool their capital in a regional center’s EB5 project and will typically have less control over the business. Regional centers EB5 projects are generally large real estate developments and NCEs that require significant funding.
The regional center program has proven to be the most popular among EB 5 investors, particularly because regional centers act as intermediaries between EB-5 investors and EB5 projects to ensure compliance with USCIS requirements, including meeting the 10-job requirement.
EB5 investors can draw upon the knowledge and experience of an established regional center to provide them with the necessary documentation relating to the project that is required in their applications for permanent residence.
The EB-5 Process
The key steps in the EB-5 process for a Canadian investor seeking permanent residence are as follows.
- The investor chooses a suitable NCE in which to invest, whether directly or through a regional center sponsor. A regional center will have a list of its NCEs ready for EB5 investment.
- The investor transfers the minimum amount of capital ($800,000 if the project is in a TEA or $1,050,000 otherwise) into an escrow account. The investor must be able to demonstrate that their invested capital is their own and has originated from legal sources.
- The investor files Form I-526 for a direct project or Form I-526E for immigrant investors in regional center-sponsored projects.
- In filing Form I-526/I-526E, the investor must demonstrate that:
- They have invested the minimum required funds in a USCIS-compliant EB-5 project either directly or through an approved regional center.
- If they have invested at the minimum amount of $800,000, their chosen project is located in a TEA.
- The required number of jobs will be created.
- Once the investor has received I-526/I-526E approval, they have earned the right to apply for an EB-5 visa (a conditional Green Card). The investor and their family members must file a Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application with the U.S. Department of State if living outside the United States or Form I-485 if already living in the United States.
- Once the investor and family members have obtained their EB-5 visas they are able to move to the United States with conditional resident status. These visas are valid for two years.
- Within 90 days of the expiry of their EB-5 visa, the investor must file the Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, with USCIS. If the petition is approved, then the investor and their dependents become lawful permanent residents of the United States and become the holders of permanent Green Cards.
Each of the steps in the EB5 process can be quite complex, and many documents need to be filed with each of the forms. We recommend that investors engage an experienced immigration attorney or law firm to help them negotiate their way through the paperwork and keep the immigration process on track. Otherwise, it can be costly in terms of time and money.
Why Should a Canadian Invest in the EB5 Program?
The EB 5 Immigrant Investor Program provides a route for Canadian investors to live and work permanently in the United States and provide a better future for their families.
As of 2022, the United States boasts the largest and most technologically advanced economy in the world. Even with the fluctuations inherent in different economic cycles over time, the United States has continued to remain well ahead of other countries. The EB5 Immigrant Investor Program is an excellent means by which Canadians can start a new business or expand their existing business to the United States and become permanent residents.
Besides the right to live and work in the United States, Canadians who are permanent residents can study anywhere in the country and can also study overseas without losing their permanent resident status.
As permanent residents, Canadian EB-5 visa holders are on an equal footing with U.S. citizens in seeking admission for their children to some of the best educational institutions in the world. The United States’ prestigious, world-class universities and post-secondary education institutions are a particularly attractive drawcard.
The United States is a popular destination for international students, and many universities give priority to applicants who reside in-state by capping the number of international students they will accept. Children of permanent residents have a significant advantage over international students in terms of college and university admission.
The children of EB-5 investors who hold Green Cards can also enjoy the benefits of lower tuition fees in their states of residence and also can engage in off-campus employment to help fund their education.
In contrast, international students in many cases pay higher tuition fees, are generally restricted to on-campus jobs, and are required to periodically renew their student visas.
Permanent Residence in the United States
The EB 5 program not only provides Canadian investors and their families with a pathway to permanent residency but also a route to U.S. citizenship. A permanent resident in the United States becomes eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship five years after obtaining a Canada investment Green Card.
The United States and Canada permit dual citizenship, so Canadians can retain their Canadian citizenship if they decide to progress from permanent resident to U.S. citizen.
As a U.S. citizen, there are advantages over those of being a permanent resident. Citizens can petition for their parents, siblings and married children to become permanent residents. They have the right to a U.S. passport which allows them to travel to many foreign countries without a visa. They can vote in local, state and federal elections and run for political office. And they can avail themselves of Government benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare.
EB5 Visa Requirements for Canadian Investors
Canadian immigrant investors must obtain I-829 approval before they can apply for a permanent EB-5 visa. In filing Form I-829, they must satisfy several requirements of the EB5 Immigrant Investor Program.
- Their investment must meet the minimum amount required under the EB-5 program ($800,000 if the project is located in a TEA or $1,050,000 if not.)
- The investment must be in an NCE, that is, a for-profit business whose activities are lawful and intended to last indefinitely.
- Their investment capital must remain ‘at risk’ until Form I-829 approval.
- The investment must result in creating jobs: 10 new full-time positions sustainable for two years.
- The investor must provide evidence that their EB-5 funds have been derived from legal sources.
- The investor must be engaged in the management of the EB5 commercial enterprise if employing the direct investment model. (Under the regional center model, minimal managerial involvement is required.)
Once those requirements are met and an investor receives Form I-829 approval, they can receive a permanent EB-5 visa for themselves and their family (spouse and unmarried children under 21).
Canadians looking for a new life in the United States with its business opportunities, warmer climate, and access to a top-tier education for their children, should consider the EB5 investment program as a means of achieving their dreams.
If you are interested in pursuing permanent residency in the U.S., and would like more information about the EB-5 program, don’t hesitate to contact EB5 Affiliate Network.