Many EB-5 investors are ultimately interested in pursuing U.S. citizenship and not U.S. permanent resident status. Permanent residents have many of the same rights as U.S. citizens but do have certain limitations, such as on spending time abroad or holding political office. However, to gain U.S. citizenship, foreign nationals must first gain U.S. permanent resident status.
The easiest path to U.S. permanent residency, assuming a foreign national can put up the hefty minimum investment, is through an EB-5 investment. To qualify under the EB-5 investment program, investors must make an EB5 investment in a qualified EB-5 project and prove that a minimum of 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers were created, in addition to several other requirements.
If an investor satisfies all the EB-5 investment program’s requirements, they, their spouse, and their unmarried children under 21 can all qualify for U.S. permanent residency status. Following five years of permanent resident status, investors can then apply to become U.S. citizens.
How Do Investors Make an EB-5 Investment?
Prospective EB-5 investors must conduct sufficient due diligence. Although most EB5 investments are successful, without proper due diligence, an investor may be putting their immigration eligibility and EB-5 investment capital at risk.
Prospective investors should also watch the long processing times faced by many EB5 investment participants. Although it appears processing times may shorten in 2021 due to a combination of the recently proposed U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 and the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act, long wait times have defined the program throughout the 2010s.
Investors from Vietnam or China face a particularly dire situation, as investors from these countries have faced long backlogs since the mid-2010s.
How to Find and Invest Through a Reputable Regional Center
Although EB-5 investors are not required to affiliate with an EB-5 regional center, it is strongly recommended, and most foreign nationals who participate in the EB-5 investment program opt for regional center investment. Regional centers work by taking EB5 investment capital from several different investors and then funneling that capital into large projects.
Regional center investors do not need to worry about managing the new commercial enterprise (NCE). Regional center investors also find it easier to satisfy the EB-5 investment program’s stringent job creation requirements, as they can count induced and indirect jobs. The expertise of qualified regional center operators also helps streamline the EB5 investment experience.
An EB-5 investor should carefully examine a regional center’s track record of approved I-526 and I-829 petitions, in addition to the regional center’s history and relationship with the project developer, before making their EB-5 investment. Investors are encouraged to examine the backgrounds and credentials of the regional center operators and project developers associated with a project. The job creation buffer, the EB-5 investment’s exit strategy, and whether the project qualifies for targeted employment area (TEA) status are also relevant considerations for the investor.
Investors should be very strategic when applying to the EB5 investment program to optimize their application’s speed and smoothness. They should pay particular care to the program’s requirement that all EB-5 investment capital be obtained legally. Depending on the sources an investor uses, this requirement can be time-consuming and challenging to satisfy. An experienced EB-5 immigration attorney can be of tremendous assistance during this step of the process, as they can help investors decide on a fund source to use, reducing the chance of receiving a request for evidence (RFE).
Investors from backlogged countries also have another strategy they can apply. As of April 2020, the list of backlogged countries includes China and Vietnam, although other countries, including India, South Korea, Brazil, and Taiwan, may soon join that list. However, if an investor is from a backlogged country but has a spouse from another country, they can include their spouse’s country of origin on their I-526 petition. This can dramatically accelerate the timeline for receiving a green card.
Applying for U.S. Citizenship
After five years of permanent residency status, including the two years of conditional permanent resident status after an investor receives I-526 approval, EB-5 investors and their family can apply for U.S. citizenship. To qualify for citizenship, investors must maintain their U.S. permanent resident status, which typically means that they cannot reside outside of the United States for more than six months every year. Permanent residents are also required to pay all relevant U.S. taxes and follow U.S. laws.
To formally file for citizenship, someone with permanent residency status must file Form N-400 in addition to all relevant supporting documentation. Green card holders must also pay the relevant fees. Green card holders can apply online, although they must make an in-person biometrics appointment. Assuming the green card holder passes through the first stage of the process, they then have an interview, a citizenship test, and an Oath of Allegiance ceremony.