Learn more about the EB5 and E2 investor visas and how both options compare.
Everything You Need to Know About Investment Visas in the US
- What Are the Various Types of Investment Visas in the US?
- How Can I Get an EB5 Investor Visa?
- What Does the EB5 Investor Visa Offer?
- The E2 U.S. Investor Visa
What Are the Various Types of Investment Visas in the US?
A US investor visa allows foreign nationals to pursue a new life in the U.S. in exchange for making a qualifying investment in a US business.
With an investment visa, foreign investors and their immediate family members are granted the right to live, work, and study in the U.S.
Even though not all countries are eligible for all the investor visa programs, a wide variety of foreign nationals can still apply for a US investor visa.
In this article, we provide an overview of the EB-5 and E-2 visas, how to qualify for them, and what the visas offer to foreign nationals.
Both programs are supervised by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
How Can I Get an EB5 Investor Visa?
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment.
In exchange for making a substantial capital investment in the US, foreign nationals can receive an EB 5 visa, which eventually opens the door to US citizenship.
Over 30 years since its creation, the immigrant investor program remains a popular immigration pathway for investors pursuing a life in the U.S.
The EB-5 visa, or green card, grants permanent U.S. residency to foreign nationals who make a qualifying capital investment in a new commercial enterprise, or NCE.
An investor’s spouse and dependent children can receive green cards as well.
Before preparing an EB-5 visa application, prospective investors must first consider their investment options.
EB5 Investment Options
Investors in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program have two investment models to choose from: direct investment and the regional center program.
It is important for investors to thoroughly understand both options before deciding between them.
In terms of qualifying for an EB5 visa, all successful EB5 investments lead to the same outcome.
However, an investor’s immigration process can be simpler, easier, and more attainable depending on the investment type they choose.
The main differences between direct investment and the regional center program are found in the project structure, investor involvement, and job creation.
Foreign investors in direct investments become the sole owners or co-owners of the NCE.
This route is often preferred by foreign nationals who wish to own and operate their own business and have complete control over their investment.
Moreover, the direct investment model generally requires an investor to be actively involved in the new commercial enterprise, entailing management, decision-making, and general day-to-day tasks.
The direct investment model often has a much smaller scope of project variety, which is generally limited to restaurants, hotels, and retail stores.
Regional centers are USCIS-designated entities that pool funds from many investors into several projects.
Under this structure, the investment capital goes to a commercial enterprise sponsored by the regional center, so the investor usually has very little involvement in project operations.
This passive involvement is one of the reasons why the vast majority of EB5 participants invest through regional centers.
Another significant advantage comes in the form of job creation.
All EB5 investors must create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. There are three categories of jobs relevant to investors: direct, indirect, and induced employment.
Direct positions are full-time jobs that appear on the company’s payroll.
In contrast, indirect and induced employment is created by a project’s positive economic growth impact on its area.
Direct investors can count only direct jobs, while regional center investors can count direct, indirect, and induced positions.
This removes much of the burden placed on investors by making it easier to meet the job creation total.
Targeted Employment Areas
In addition to choosing between the two capital investment models, foreign investors also have the option of investing in regions that need economic growth, known in the EB-5 program as targeted employment areas (TEAs).
TEAs are defined as either rural or high-unemployment, with investments in either being much cheaper than those outside.
Certain kinds of public infrastructure projects also qualify for targeted employment area status.
As of March 2022, the minimum investment amounts are $1,050,000 for non-TEA projects and $800,000 for TEA projects.
What to Include in Form I-526
Once a foreign national makes an EB5 investment, they must gather the necessary documentation and submit Form I-526, the first EB 5 visa application.
Investors must include evidence to show that the following criteria are met: the investment amount meets EB-5 program requirements; the investment capital was lawfully obtained and invested in an NCE; the investment will create enough jobs; the investor is adequately involved in the project.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services evaluates the I-526 petition based on these requirements, so it is crucial for an investor to include the correct information in their application.
An immigration attorney can help with this process and ensure a prompt and successful approval of the I-526 petition.
An investor’s I-526 petition must demonstrate that the invested capital meets the minimum EB-5 investment.
To satisfy USCIS requirements, this capital must be considered “at risk” and committed to the NCE.
Supporting documents for this purpose can include copies of the NCE’s bank statements that show it has received the investment; evidence of assets purchased to be used by the NCE; promissory notes; securities agreements; and funds held in escrow.
If an applicant is investing at the lower $800,000 minimum, they must also prove NCE’s TEA status.
EB-5 investors must prove that the invested capital was lawfully obtained. This is one of the most important parts of the I-526 application.
As much detailed information as possible must be included to show USCIS the lawful trail of the investment funds.
Investors need to trace the capital from its source to the NCE. This also includes funds given to the investor, such as gifts or inheritances.
The requirements for this aspect of the petition vary for each applicant based on how the invested capital was obtained.
Depending on the circumstances, an investor will provide evidence such as promissory notes; profit/loss statements; sale of stock certificates; dividends certificates; records of property sales, mortgages; and bank statements.
If any of the investment capital was obtained from another person, such as in a gift or an inheritance, evidence proving the lawful source of their funds must also be included.
An EB-5 investor’s I-526 petition must show that the capital was invested in an NCE, a for-profit entity established after 1990 that engages in lawful commercial activity.
If an investor is using the investment to create an entirely new NCE, they should submit documentation such as articles of incorporation; partnership agreements; certificate of limited partnership; business bank accounts; a state business license; and an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
If the investment will expand or purchase an existing business, additional information can include a certificate of merger/consolidation, a certificate of purchase, certified financial reports, stock purchase agreements, and the shareholder agreement.
One of the USCIS requirements for an EB-5 investment is that it creates at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
An I-526 petition must submit proof that these positions have been or will be created. This evidence usually includes a detailed business plan proving that the EB-5 project needs at least 10 workers.
Additionally, evidence that shows the jobs will be sustained for at least two years must be included.
In the case of regional center projects, calculating indirect and induced jobs is more complicated than measuring direct jobs.
An economist is usually required to create a report on the economic impact of an EB-5 regional center project.
Investors must also prove they will be involved in managing the NCE. Direct investors are often required to play a very active role in the new commercial enterprise and must demonstrate as such on the I-526 petition.
Documentation for this requirement typically includes a statement of the investor’s title and duties within the new commercial enterprise or evidence that they are a member of the board of directors, a corporate officer, or a partner.
In contrast, regional center projects are typically structured as limited partnerships with the investor as a limited partner with reduced managerial duties.
An investor’s level of involvement in managing the new commercial enterprise ultimately depends on the latter’s management structure.
Aside from the aforementioned documents, investors must also include personal information on the I-526 petition.
This documentation includes the investor’s passport; completed medical examination forms; any pending civil or criminal actions from the previous 15 years; and civil documents, including birth and marriage certificates.
What Does the EB5 Investor Visa Offer?
If an investor meets the EB5 requirements and receives I-526 petition approval, they obtain a two-year conditional visa. An investor’s spouse is also eligible for a visa.
While same-sex spouses qualify, common-law spouses do not. Any children are eligible if they are under the age of 21 and unmarried.
This applies to biological, adopted, and step-children. In any case, the main applicant must prove their relationship with the children.
The EB5 visa grants investors the ability to live, study, work, and retire anywhere in the U.S. It also allows the return of investment capital upon the completion of the project.
The visa also provides access to the U.S.’s leading healthcare and education systems.
When an investor first receives their green card for conditional residency, it is valid for two years.
At the end of this two-year period, an investor can apply for a permanent green card through Form I-829.
Furthermore, the two years of conditional residency count towards the five years of permanent residency required for naturalization eligibility.
This means that investors can start working towards U.S. citizenship as soon as they enter the country.
The E2 U.S. Investor Visa
For many foreign nationals, an alternative to the EB5 visa is the E-2 visa, a non-immigrant visa that lets investors work in the U.S.
While the investment amount must be “substantial,” it is generally much lower than that of the EB-5 program.
Additionally, the processing time for an E-2 visa application is significantly shorter than an EB-5 application, providing a much quicker route into the U.S. for investors.
Foreign nationals can obtain an E-2 visa to work for a company they form within the U.S., making them the sponsor as well as the employee. Spouses of E-2 visa holders can also obtain work authorization in the U.S.
The E-2 visa is granted for two-year periods and can be renewed indefinitely. However, E2 non-immigrants must maintain an intention to leave the U.S. upon the expiration or termination of their status.
General Qualifications for E2 Investors
The most important qualification for E-2 visa applicants is their country of origin. Foreign nationals from any country can participate in the EB-5 program, although some face longer wait times than others.
In contrast, E2 investors must be citizens of a country that has an E-2 treaty with the U.S., such as Montenegro, Grenada, or Turkey.
China, India, and Vietnam are among the countries that do not hold an E2 treaty with the U.S.
These countries exhibit extremely high demand for the EB5 visa, which often creates backlogs and delays in processing times.
Investors from these countries can consider obtaining citizenship in an E2 treaty country and then applying for an E2 visa through investment in the U.S.
This can provide a quicker route to U.S. residency than waiting for an EB 5 visa application to be fully processed.
The full list of countries that hold an E2 treaty with the U.S. can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
Just like with EB-5 investors, E2 visa applicants must invest in an enterprise within the U.S. However, unlike EB-5, there is no official minimum investment amount set for E-2 investors.
According to USCIS, this means the amount must be enough to cover the cost of purchasing or establishing an enterprise; is enough to ensure financial commitment to the successful operation of the project; and supports the likelihood that the enterprise will be successfully developed and directed.
An actual E2 investment amount will vary depending on the enterprise and its industry sector.
An unofficial minimum of $100,000 is widely recommended — anything lower can be difficult to get approved.
The higher the invested capital, the easier it will be for an investor to prove they are financially committed to the capital investment.
Differences Between the EB5 and E2 Investor Visas
The following table illustrates the most important differences between both visa options.
|EB 5 Visa||E-2 Visa|
$1,050,000 for Non-TEA Investors
$800,000 for TEA Investors
No officially set minimum.
$100,000 is widely recommended as the lowest feasible amount.
Application Fee for Form I-526: $3,675.
Application fee for Form I-829: $3,750.
Fees for biometrics, medical examinations, obtaining supporting documents, translations, and hiring an immigration attorney.
Application fee: $460
Possible fee for biometric services.
|Who Can Invest||Foreign nationals from any country.||Citizens of E-2 visa treaty countries.|
|How Long Does it Take||USCIS typically takes two years, sometimes significantly longer, to process Form I-526.||An applicant can receive an E-2 visa in a matter of months after filing.|
The final key difference between the EB5 and E2 visas is that the E2 cannot lead to a green card visa for the investor.
Through the EB-5 program, investors can receive a green card after two years of conditional residency.
While the E2 visa grants U.S. residency to investors, it is a non-immigrant visa, so it cannot lead to a green card.
Because of this, many investors use the E-2 as a stepping stone before pursuing a green card through the EB-5 program.
Investment Visas Are an Ideal Path to U.S. Residency
Overall, US investor visas are great ways for qualifying individuals to obtain residency in the U.S. Those who receive a visa are allowed to live, work, and study in the country.
Depending on an investor’s goal, the EB5 and E2 visas can be effective alternatives to a traditional visa application.
The former is ideal for those with their eye on U.S. permanent residency, while the latter is better for those seeking a quick route to a work permit in the U.S.
Foreign nationals considering the EB-5 program can take the next step by booking a call with EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) to learn more and searching for an experienced immigration attorney.