Eligibility For In-State Tuition Through the EB-5 Visa

  Author: Samuel B. Silverman

Thanks to permanent residency, EB-5 investors may also be able to take advantage of in-state tuition rates for their children.

What is the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program?

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, or EB-5 visa, is an immigration program by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), that offers a path to permanent residency in the United States. This program is for foreign nationals who invest in domestic projects that meet a job creation requirement. The program requires a minimum investment of $800,000 in a targeted employment area (TEA), or $1.05 million in a non-TEA, and the creation of at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. The program is designed to stimulate the U.S. economy and promote job creation in areas of high unemployment.

Foreign investors have the option of participating by making a direct investment in an NCE such as a real estate development project, or making a capital investment through a regional center participating in the regional center program.

The EB-5 Visa For In-State Tuition Eligibility

Several of the world’s premier universities are situated in the United States, making it a preferred destination for international students pursuing higher education. Nonetheless, a college education in the U.S. can be quite expensive.

International students are often charged substantially higher tuition and fees than their domestic counterparts.

To reduce college expenses, EB-5 investors could potentially benefit from concurrent filing of forms I-526E and I-485. This will file your application for your EB-5 visa, as well as an Adjustment of Status (AOS) to remain in the U.S. while your application is processed.

Once submitted, the EB-5 investor and their dependents may no longer be classified as “International” and could thereby be exempt from international tuition guidelines or the need for an F-1 student visa. Rather, they could qualify for domestic or even in-state tuition.

The benefits may vary depending on the current status of the investor concurrently filing their EB-5 petitions. Therefore, before making a decision, it is essential to consult with the institution’s guidelines and respective requirements to obtain the maximum benefits from the concurrent filing process.

The rules for establishing in-state residency vary by state and university, and the eligibility criteria for in-state tuition can include a specific amount of time residing in the state, proof of a residential address, or filing of tax returns. In general, EB-5 investors must meet certain criteria to qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Eligibility criteria may include:

  1. Investment in a TEA: Many states require that EB-5 investors make their investment in a TEA, which is defined as an area with high unemployment or a rural area. This is because the EB-5 program was created to encourage investment in areas that need economic development.
  2. Creation of jobs: The EB-5 program requires that the investment create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. Some states may require that these jobs be created within the state where your chosen institution is located in order for the investor to qualify for in-state tuition rates.
  3. Length of residency: Some states require that EB-5 investors establish residency in the state for a certain period of time before they are eligible for in-state tuition rates. This may range from one year to five years, depending on the state.

If an EB-5 investor meets the eligibility criteria for in-state tuition rates, their child may be able to attend college or university in the state at a significantly lower cost than other out-of-state or international students. The exact amount of the tuition discount will vary by state and institution, but it can be substantial.

Non-Immigrant Visa Tuition Eligibility

Depending on the current status of your EB-5 filing, or the age of the student looking to enroll, it might be prudent to consider starting the enrollment process under your non-immigrant visa. This is because there are different stages in the filing and documentation process when EB-5 investors can enjoy residency benefits. These benefits include the ability to lawfully stay in the U.S., travel in and out of the country, work within the U.S., and no longer pay international tuition at American universities.

However, before obtaining permanent residency, these benefits may occur at different points in the process and are contingent on the current status of the investor who is concurrently filing their EB-5 petitions.

The good news here is that some states including California, New York, Texas, and Florida, have passed legislation offering tuition-friendly policies for immigrant families, although specifics may vary. In these states, immigrants with nonimmigrant status, specifically those with L or E visas, may be eligible to register their student children for in-state tuition in states that have enacted legislation friendly to immigrants, leading to lower tuition costs while you await your EB-5 application approval.

This strategy of maintaining your L or E visa status long enough to qualify for in-state tuition, and then resorting to employment authorization once the children turn 21 can help the family members remain in status until they receive their green cards.

How to Learn More

It is important to note that the EB-5 program is complex, and investors should work with an experienced immigration attorney and financial advisors to ensure that they are making a wise investment, and that they meet all eligibility requirements.

In addition, investors should carefully consider the risks and benefits of the EB-5 program before making an investment. To learn more about the types of investment opportunities available, or take advantage of our free counseling services, reach out for a free consultation, today.