Green Card for Non-Immigrant Visa Holders Via the EB-5 Route

  Author: Michael B. Schoenfeld

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is a reliable pathway for foreign nationals to get a U.S. Green Card and even citizenship through investment if they have the required fund. It is also a convenient option for other visa holders already residing in the United States to obtain permanent residency. Students and other foreigners in the United States on a non-immigrant visa can benefit from the EB-5 program to become permanent U.S. residents by adjusting their visa status.

Advantages of the EB-5 Visa

Since its inception in 1990, when the EB-5 program was started to help stimulate the U.S. economy, thousands of foreign nationals have availed of the program to get lawful permanent resident status to live and work in the United States.

To qualify for a Green Card through the EB-5 program, an investor must meet the requirements of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), such as the minimum investment criteria and proof of legal sources of their funds. They must also create permanent full-time employment for at least 10 qualified U.S. workers.

When compared to other visas, the EB-5 visa process has certain advantages. As long as the conditions of USCIS are met, the applicant does not require any specialized knowledge or experience to qualify for the program. There is also no requirement for a U.S. sponsor, unlike other immigrant visa options.

Moreover, the applicant can become eligible for citizenship five years after becoming a permanent resident.

The EB-5 Program for Non-Immigrant Visa Holders

Owing to these advantages, a foreign national already living in the United States on a non-immigrant temporary visa can consider investing in an EB-5 project as an alternate and fast-track route to permanent residency.

For international students on the F-1 visa who wish to live and work in the United States after completing their education at a U.S. academic institution, the EB-5 program can be a straightforward way to fulfill their aspirations.

Similarly, it is a great alternative for H1-B visa holders who are highly skilled professionals but live in perpetual fear of layoffs and deportation due to their H1-B employment visa limitations.

Established entrepreneurs holding an E-2 visa also often look into the prospect of investing in an EB-5 project, especially a regional center offering, to overcome uncertainties and restrictions of their temporary visa status.

Adjustment of Visa Status

Adjustment of status is done by filing Form I-485, by which eligible foreign nationals on a temporary visa can apply for lawful permanent resident status while living in the United States without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.

Before the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA) that reauthorized the EB-5 Regional Center Program, an applicant could proceed with adjustment of visa status only after the approval of the I-526 petition. The new law brought significant changes to the EB-5 program, one of them being EB-5 concurrent filing, i.e., the ability to file Forms I-526 E and I-485 simultaneously.

This effectively means that the EB-5 investor and dependent family members can continue to live in the United States while the I-526 petition is pending approval. It also opens up the path to a fast employment authorization document (EAD) and travel permit.

This provision is particularly applicable to H-1B, E-2, and F-1 visa holders, who can now live, work, and study in the United States without limitations posed by their temporary visas while waiting for their I-526 petitions to be adjudicated.

Outlook for the EB-5 Industry

After a low activity period due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty due to the lapse of the regional center program, there is a surge of renewed interest in the EB-5 visa by foreign nationals, particularly from India and China.

Reauthorization of the EB-5 Regional Center Program and other reforms brought about by the long-anticipated RIA has boosted the confidence of potential EB-5 investors. The new regulation has increased transparency and security measures to safeguard the interests of investors by making the EB-5 industry more accountable.

Overall, the EB-5 program continues to remain a viable option for immigrant investors, including those already in the United States on a temporary study or work visa, to secure U.S. citizenship for themselves and their family members.

For guidance on getting started on the immigration process, schedule a free consultation with EB5AN.