An EB-5 visa allows investors to relocate to the United States permanently.
EB-5 Permanent Residency by Investment
There are various ways in which you can become a permanent U.S. resident (a Green Card holder), which allows you to legally reside and work in the United States. These include the following.
- Approval as an immigrant investor through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
- Approval as an immigrant worker.
- Marriage to a U.S. citizen.
- Refugee or asylum status.
- Winning the Green Card lottery.
An investment through the EB-5 program is widely considered to be one of the quickest and most straightforward ways to earn a Green Card.
The EB-5 investment program route to permanent residency by investment is a multi-step process that takes several years to complete. The basic requirements are for visa applicants to make an investment in a new commercial enterprise in the United States that will create ten full-time positions for U.S. workers.
There are several benefits to pursuing the EB-5 investment program’s route to permanent residency by investment over other immigration programs. These include the following:
- Your family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) also become eligible for Green Cards.
- You can earn an income from your investment in the process of attaining a Green Card.
- Immigrants of any nationality are welcome to make an investment in the program.
A successful EB-5 investment means that you can not only become a permanent resident of the United States but will also be eligible for U.S. citizenship five years after receiving a Green Card.
In this article, we provide an outline of the EB-5 investment program, the steps towards permanent residency by investment under the program, the obligations and responsibilities of Green Card holders, and the differences between permanent residency by investment and U.S. citizenship.
Permanent Residency By Investment Through the EB-5 Program
The U.S. government established the EB-5 investment program in 1990 to boost economic growth by creating jobs for U.S. workers. Foreign investors who invest in EB-5 investment projects are eligible for permanent residence by investment. EB-5 investors must have a clean criminal record.
EB-5 projects can be found across a diverse range of industries including infrastructure, hospitality, restaurants, and real estate development.
A key requirement of an investment under the EB-5 residency program is that you invest a minimum investment amount in a new commercial enterprise (NCE) that will benefit the U.S. economy. The minimum investment threshold is $800,000 if you invest in an NCE in a targeted employment area (TEA), or $1,050,000 if the NCE is outside a TEA. The $800,000 amount can also be invested in infrastructure projects where EB-5 financing is sought by a government entity.
A TEA is a rural area or an area of high unemployment (i.e., at least 150% of the U.S. national average unemployment rate). Investment capital in a TEA is designed to stimulate the area’s local economy and create jobs. High unemployment TEAs are designated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) has developed a national TEA map that will tell you instantly whether a prospective EB-5 company is located in a TEA.
The second key requirement under the EB-5 investment program is that your investment creates and sustains at least ten full-time positions for U.S. employees for a minimum of two years.
The Two EB-5 Investment Models
There are two investment models, or “investment programs” in the EB-5 industry. You can invest directly in an EB-5 project or invest indirectly in a project sponsored by a regional center. Regional centers are USCIS-approved entities that manage EB-5 capital across multiple projects.
Only one investor is permitted per direct investment project. This investment model will best suit EB-5 visa applicants who want to own and operate their own commercial business interests with a view to future expansion and increasing their profits. Typically, restaurants, retail and wholesale trade businesses, service, manufacturing, technology and agricultural businesses make good direct investment options.
In contrast to the direct investment model, multiple investors can pool their funds in a regional center project but will typically have less control over the business than their direct investor counterparts. Large real estate developments and NCEs that require significant amounts of funding are typically sponsored by a regional center. The regional center program has proven to be the preferred model for EB-5 investors.
EB-5 investors in both models are responsible for putting the paperwork together for their specific project and submitting their visa applications to USCIS. The help of an experienced immigration attorney is highly recommended.
One of the primary goals of the EB-5 Investment Program is job creation. Each EB-5 project must create at least 10 permanent full-time positions, per investor, for qualified U.S. workers. These jobs must be sustained continuously for at least two years. The definition of what constitutes a full-time position differs under the two EB-5 investment models.
Direct investment projects can count only jobs that are directly created by the NCE. In contrast, EB-5 projects under the regional center program can count direct, indirect, and induced jobs. Indirect and induced jobs are calculated through econometric modelling of the project’s overall impact. This flexibility in meeting job creation requirements makes EB-5 investments under the regional center program particularly attractive to investors.
The EB-5 Process
The first step in the EB-5 process to permanent residence by investment is to choose a qualifying EB-5 project and a regional center sponsor.
If your project is in a TEA, then you must transfer a minimum of $800,000 into the regional center’s investment fund. If the project is not in a TEA, then the minimum investment amount is $1,050,000.
Once you have invested in an EB-5 project, you must file Form I-526E to USCIS, through your immigration attorney. This petition demonstrates your compliance with EB-5 investment program requirements and requests a conditional two-year Green Card, which grants temporary residency by investment.
In filing Form I-526, you must prove the following.
- You have invested the minimum required funds in a USCIS-compliant EB-5 project either directly or through an approved regional center.
- If you invested at the minimum amount of $800,000, your chosen project is located in a TEA.
- The required number of jobs will be created.
You must also show that your invested capital originated from legal sources. Experienced immigration attorneys can serve as qualified advisors, helping you document the source of your funds. The investment capital must be your own. Legal sources of assets include salaries, dividends, gifts from family or friends, inheritances, proceeds from the sale of real estate, and the sale of stocks. And you must show that you have paid all the required taxes related to those funds.
Historically, USCIS has typically taken two years or more to process I-526 petitions. And if you are an investor from a country where there is a high volume of EB-5 applicants, such as China, it can be much longer.
Once you receive I-526 approval, you and your family are granted conditional Green Cards for a period of two years. This is a temporary visa, not permanent residence by investment. If you are already living in the U.S., you will also need to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence by investment or Adjust Status. Those living outside the U.S. need to file Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application.
Before the expiry of your conditional Green Card, you must file Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions, with USCIS, which, on approval, will remove the conditions on your Green Card, providing you and your family members with permanent residence by investment (i.e., permanent Green Cards). In filing this form, you must prove that your investment capital in the EB-5 project was at risk. If the 10 new jobs are still actively being created, then you must file an additional application in a year’s time confirming that the jobs have finally been created.
Five years after obtaining permanent residence by investment, you might consider applying for U.S. citizenship, which is the ultimate goal for many EB-5 investors. Among many other, benefits, U.S. citizens are entitled to visa free travel and visa free access to the United States. If you want to obtain U.S. citizenship by investment, then you can apply to do so by filing Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization).
Permanent Residency by Investment: Rights and Responsibilities
As a permanent U.S. resident (Green Card holder), you are entitled to many of the rights and freedoms enjoyed by U.S. citizens:
- You have the right to live permanently and work anywhere in the U.S., provided you do not breach immigration laws.
- You can choose your work anywhere in the U.S.
- You have the full protection of all U.S. laws.
- You have access to higher education and health care within the U.S.
- You are free to travel abroad, but your absences should not exceed six months.
- You can own or rent property, obtain a driver’s license and go to school or college.
The rights granted to Green Card holders are accompanied by a number of obligations:
- You must obey state and federal laws.
- You must pay federal and state income taxes.
- You must support the democratic form of government (although permanent residents are ineligible to vote or run for public office).
- You must meet physical residence by investment requirements. If you are absent from the U.S. for more than six months, you could be considered to have abandoned your residence by investment and lose your permanent resident status.
- You must be of good moral character.
Permanent Residency by Investment vs. Citizenship
As a citizen of the United States, you are legally recognized as being a part of, or belonging to, the U.S.
There are many advantages to being a U.S. citizen over a permanent resident.
- You will not have to periodically renew your permanent residency by investment.
- You can petition your foreign relatives such as parents, siblings, and married children for permanent residency by investment.
- You will have the right to a U.S. passport.
- You can access U.S. government assistance while abroad.
- You can have a say in the running of your country through voting in local, federal, and state elections, or running for political office.
- You will have wider employment opportunities.
- Government benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare are available to you.
Immigrating Through the EB-5 Investment Program
Obtaining a permanent residence permit through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is a straightforward and relatively quick way to immigrate to the United States and ultimately obtain U.S. citizenship.
EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN) owns and operates over ten EB-5 regional centers across the United States, working directly with EB-5 investors to match them with EB-5 investment projects and help them negotiate their way through the immigration requirements of the EB-5 Investment Program. If you are interested in obtaining EB-5 residency by investment and have questions about the minimum investment amount or other requirements, schedule a free call with EB5AN today. Obtaining residence by investment through the EB-5 program has been a life-changing experience for many foreign investors.