Whether the L-1 or EB-5 visa is better for any given individual is contingent on a number of factors. One of the main differences between the two is that the L-1 is a temporary nonimmigrant visa while the EB-5 visa is an immigrant visa.
If the applicant wishes to obtain a green card and relocate to the United State permanently, pursuing an EB-5 visa may be the better option. If, however, they do not have permanent immigrant intent and they meet the necessary eligibility criteria, it may be better to apply for an L-1 visa.
Prospective applicants should also take into consideration processing times, particularly for EB-5 petitions. Generally, Form I-526 — the first EB-5 petition that needs to be filed — can take two to five years to be processed and adjudicated. Prospective EB-5 investors must be aware of these lengthy processing times and prepare accordingly.
If the prospective applicant is employed by a company with an affiliated office in the U.S. in a managerial or executive capacity or as an employee with specialized knowledge, they will be eligible to apply for an L-1 visa as an intracompany transferee.
The L-1 visa would be ideal for foreign nationals seeking to temporarily enter the United States for the purposes of providing services to their employer’s U.S. office. An L-1 visa holder is initially granted three years of residence and work authorization in the United States, after which they are permitted to renew their visa for a maximum of seven years.
The EB-5 visa route would suit an individual who aims to one day permanently relocate to the United States.
The prospective EB-5 investor must be financially prepared to make a minimum investment into an eligible EB-5 project. The current investment threshold stands at $1,050,000, while projects located in targeted employment areas (TEAs) have a reduced investment amount of $800,000. There are additional financial requirements to consider for an EB-5 visa, such as filing and administrative fees.
Overall, the question of which visa—L1 or EB-5—is better for a foreign national depends entirely on the individual’s unique situation and their personal goals. Retaining an experienced immigration attorney to help explore their options would be a highly advisable first step.