EB-5 Visas for Immigrant Investors

The EB-5 visa is designed to help foreign investors live and work in the United States while helping the American economy. It is a green card program created by the U.S. Congress to help create jobs as well as allow foreign nationals to become lawful U.S. permanent residents. Since there is no annual cap on how many people can apply for this type of visa, it allows foreign nationals to obtain permanent residence in a quicker way than other routes.

The program is open to entrepreneurs who make an investment in a commercial enterprise in the U.S. and who plan to create or preserve 10 or more permanent full-time jobs for U.S. citizens. A commercial enterprise is defined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as a for-profit entity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business. Three thousand green cards are reserved every year for this visa category.

In order to qualify, the individual must invest a minimum of $500,000 in a targeted employment area, basically defined as a rural or high unemployment area, or $1 million anywhere in the United States. It is important to note that the investment capital cannot be borrowed. While the investor should not be completely removed from the enterprise, he or she is not required to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. The investor also has to show that his or her assets were lawfully acquired through a legitimate business, documented investment, property sale, gift, inheritance, or someone other legal way.

A targeted employment area refers to an area that at the time of investment is a rural area or an area that is undergoing an unemployment rate of at least 150 percent of the national average. A rural area is defined as an area outside a metropolitan statistical area or outside the boundary of a city or town that has a population of 20,000 people or more.

The first step to obtaining lawful permanent residence through this route is filing the I-526 Petition. Once this form is filed, the approximate time for a foreign investor to pass the U.S. interview and receive his or her conditional green card can range from three to six months. There are numerous documents that must be submitted with an individual’s I-526 petition, including the applicant’s passport, employment and business documents, financial statements, criminal records, and more.

A conditional green card is typically valid for a term of two years. The investor’s spouse and any unmarried children under 21 years of age may also receive conditional green cards. One year and nine months after the conditional green card is issued, the investor has a three-month window to demonstrate that the necessary funds have been invested and the 10 jobs required by law have been created. This information is shown by filing the I-829 Petition.

Once the I-829 Petition is approved by USCIS, the foreign investor and his or her qualifying dependents will get their permanent green cards. Five years after obtaining them, the investor and his or her qualifying dependents may be eligible for U.S. citizenship.