The Process of Obtaining an EB-5 Green Card in the United States
- Immigrant Investor Visa Program Requirements
- Steps in the EB-5 Process
- EB-5 Capital Investment
- Potential Risk and Reward
- Filing and Legal Fees
- Investment Options
U.S. Visas for Citizens of the U.K.
The fastest and most convenient way for Britons to obtain permanent residency in the United States is through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
The immigrant investor visa program was established by Congress in 1990 to create jobs and stimulate the U.S. economy by allowing foreign nationals to invest in a new commercial enterprise (NCE).
By meeting all of the program’s requirements, an immigrant investor can get a 10-year renewable green card for themselves and their immediate family.
The EB-5 Investment Visa
There are a few visa programs available for acquiring permanent U.S. residency, all with their own guidelines and requirements.
Some are accessible only to those from a treaty country; immigrant workers with an offer of visa sponsorship from a U.S.-based employer; close relatives of a permanent resident or U.S. citizen; or those with extraordinary circumstances, such as asylees and refugees.
The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program is a great option for any foreign national who does not fit into the above categories, as the main requirement is a simple financial investment into a U.S. company that will produce 10 jobs. The EB-5 investment route can be lengthy and require considerable resources.
However, for UK citizens who have sufficient investment capital, the EB-5 program can be significantly faster than the other UK investor visa options.
Immigrant Investor Visa Program Requirements
Some of the basic requirements that apply to each investor are the following:
- A net worth of at least $1,000,000 or an annual income of $200,000.
- Minimum investment capital of $800,000 or $1,050,000, depending on the type of NCE.
- The capital must remain at risk for the duration of the investment.
- Personal involvement in the NCE in either a day-to-day management role or through making policy-related decisions.
- A clean criminal record.
- Experienced immigration counsel is not required but is highly recommended.
The job-creating entity (JCE)—the enterprise in charge of employment—may be the same as the NCE itself or be established separately. It must produce at least 10 full-time jobs for a two-year period.
Steps in the EB-5 Process
Great care must be taken along the way to ensure that the relevant forms are all filed correctly; doing so will prevent any unnecessary delays in investor visa approval.
For this reason, we recommend finding experienced legal counsel before starting the EB-5 process. The following is a general overview of the EB-5 investment process.
Step 1: Making the Investment
Once the investor has sought legal counsel and chosen a reliable EB-5 project, they will:
- Sign a subscription agreement with the NCE and form an official partnership.
- Transfer the investment funds to an escrow account for distribution to the project.
Step 2: Form I-526
The EB-5 applicant must then submit Form I-526, Immigration Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), along with all filing fees and supporting documents. The necessary documentation includes:
- Bank statements.
- Secured loan agreements.
- Tax returns.
- Source-of-funds evidence.
- An economic report of the NCE’s ability to produce and sustain 10 U.S. jobs.
After filing, the investor will have to wait for USCIS to review the petition. Inaccurate documentation or failure to meet program requirements can significantly prolong the wait time. USCIS may issue a denial of the petition or a request for evidence (RFE).
Step 3: Form I-485 or DS-260
Once an investor has received approval for Form I-526, they will need to submit either the I-485 or DS-260 petition depending on where they live.
If an investor is living in the United States they must:
- Submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status, to USCIS.
- Include such documents as personal photographs, medical and criminal records, birth and marriage certificates, and biometric prints.
If residing outside of the United States, they must:
- File Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa Application, at the U.S. embassy in London, along with supporting personal papers.
- Undergo an interview process with USCIS government personnel.
Forms I-526 and I-485 can now be filed simultaneously, according to program reforms made in March 2022. Filing these petitions simultaneously can allow investors who already live in the United States to adjust their immigration status and enjoy many of the freedoms of a visa, even before obtaining one.
Once these petitions have been approved, the investor is granted a temporary two-year EB5 visa and can live and work in the United States.
Step 4: Form I-829
90 days before the end of the two-year waiting period, the EB-5 applicant must submit Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. It is critical to file I-829 within this time frame.
The investor must provide:
- Proof that the NCE has succeeded in producing at least 10 U.S. jobs and that the EB5 investment has remained at-risk for the two years.
- Financial documents, tax returns and personal information.
- A copy of their conditional two-year investor visa.
Before final approval, there is an English language and civics test, as well as a final interview with USCIS. The immigrant investor will then receive a 10-year renewable investor visa for permanent residency.
Benefits of the EB5 Visa for UK Citizens
Each individual who seeks an investor visa has their own reasons for doing so, but there are some that prove to be especially motivating.
The benefits that come with permanent residency apply not only to British immigrants but to their spouses and dependent children as well.
Upon receiving a renewable investor visa, a UK EB-5 applicant and their family will be able to:
- Permanently live anywhere in the U.S.
- Work for any employer or own a business.
- Benefit from the United States’ education and healthcare systems.
- Access government benefits.
- File for naturalization as a U.S. citizen after a period of five years.
The Financial Cost of an EB5 Visa
EB-5 Capital Investment
The minimum capital investment for an EB-5 project depends on the project’s location. The EB-5 program designates certain locations as targeted employment areas (TEAs) if they are either:
- Rural areas with a population of less than 20,000.
- Areas with an unemployment rate 150% of the national average and a population of more than 20,000.
For investments made within these TEAs, as well as for certain infrastructure projects, the minimum capital requirement is $800,000. For all EB-5 projects located outside of a TEA, the minimum investment is $1,050,000.
Potential Risk and Reward
Investors must consider how much the monetary return is likely to be on their investment, as some projects are much riskier than others.
A good way to evaluate the possible risk is by looking at how much equity the project developers themselves have made available.
The ideal capital structure of an EB-5 project is taken from a variety of fund sources. The salient factor is that all EB-5 projects should avoid overreliance on EB-5 investment funding.
Filing and Legal Fees
Each time a form is filed with USCIS or a related entity, there are accompanying fees. These can add up, especially if anything is rejected, delayed, or needs resubmission. It is always good to have a sufficient financial cushion to cover any unexpected fees.
If a British investor chooses to hire an immigration attorney, which is highly encouraged, they need to be able to cover the subsequent legal costs.
Almost all immigrant investors find legal assistance to be well worth the cost, especially for lawyers versed in immigration law and EB-5 program requirements.
There are two types of EB-5 investment options: the direct investment and regional center programs. Both have their pros and cons, but the regional center program is by far the most popular.
Throughout the United States, various regional centers have been designated by USCIS to act as intermediaries between EB-5 investors and eligible NCEs.
The investor enters into a partnership together with other foreign investors, and the RC funnels the pooled investment funds to the chosen business as needed.
Regional centers also facilitate access to the documentation needed for the I-526 and I-829 petitions.
The regional center program can expedite the EB-5 process by helping the investor to:
- Select an appropriate project for their personal situation.
- Get access to projects with exemplar approval. This means the project has already been pre-approved as suitable for EB5 investment, which reduces an investor’s immigration risk.
- Meet the job creation requirement more easily by counting indirect jobs (that is, jobs that are created as a result of a project’s economic impact) in addition to standard payroll positions.
The above makes working with a regional center an attractive choice for many foreign nationals.
EB-5 applicants who wish to make a direct investment in a business without the intermediacy of a regional center should keep in mind that all 10 required jobs must be directly produced, full-time positions that appear on the NCE’s payroll. The more streamlined nature of the direct investment model may be preferable for some investors.
Using An Immigration Lawyer
A competent immigration lawyer or attorney is an indispensable asset when seeking an investor visa. These professionals should be vetted carefully. Qualified immigration attorneys should:
- Have years of experience in the EB-5 investment field.
- Be able to provide in-depth advice on all relevant U.S. rules, regulations, and policies.
- Assist with the preparation and filing of forms.
- Act on behalf of their immigrant client before USCIS and government authorities.
What to Consider Before Applying as a U.K. Citizen
In general, it is pretty straightforward for Britons to apply for an EB5 visa UK, though the process requires adequate financial capital and an ample time frame.
To ensure success, it is important to work with a U.S. immigration lawyer with extensive knowledge of the application process for U.K. citizens.
EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) is a leading EB-5 firm with the necessary resources and know-how to lead any foreign national to the possession of a U.S. green card. British citizens, investors, or project developers looking for more information should contact EB5AN directly for expert advice.
We are always available to offer EB-5 support. Book a free call to learn more about applying for the EB5 visa as a citizen of the United Kingdom.