EB5 Visa: How to get Investment Green Card

10 min read

Per Pew Research Center, The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world. More than 40 million people in the United States were born in another nation, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants. Immigrants to the United States are also highly ethnically diverse, with people from almost every country in the world living in the United States.

If you’re looking to immigrate to the United States via investment, this article is for you.

What is EB-5 Investor Visa?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that administers the EB-5 program. Investors (and their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21) may apply for a Green Card (permanent residence) through the program if they:

  • Make the requisite financial investment in a business in the United States; and
  • Prepare to create or keep ten full-time positions for qualified US workers.

What is the minimum investment for an EB-5 visa?

The EB-5 program visa is an investor green card that requires a standard minimum investment amount of $1 million (reverted from $1.8 million) and the minimum investment amount for investment in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) of $500,000 (reverted from $900K).

There is no quota on how many visas can be issued per year; however, it is essential to note that there are two main requirements for an application to be successful. The first is the USD investment, as mentioned above. These investments are aimed at a designated “Targeted Employment Area.” This area typically has high unemployment rates and low job growth, though this is not always the case. The second requirement includes proving that ten jobs have been created or preserved with the investment made.

Please note that the USCIS did increase the standard minimum investment amount to $1.8 million (from $1 million). In addition, the minimum investment in a TEA was increased to $900,000 (from $500,000) to account for inflation on Nov 21, 2019.

However, on Jun 22, 2021, the US District Court for the Northern District of California vacated the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization Final Rule. While USCIS considers this decision, the EB-5 regulations in effect before the rule was finalized on Nov 21, 2019, will apply.

The EB 5 investor visa is a possible avenue for obtaining a green card for those who plan to invest in a business opportunity in the US. However, it is essential to note that this visa is often much more challenging to get than many other visas. Nevertheless, once United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has completed all of the stipulations, the applicant for an EB-5 visa will receive permanent residency status.

This article will discuss the requirements of an EB 5 application, including the required investment capital and qualifying job creation/preservation, as well as its benefits for both investors and American businesses looking to grow their workforce in the competitive global marketplace of today’s economy.

Eligibility requirements for an EB-5 Investor Visa

Here is the summary of eligibility requirements for the EB-5 investor visa:

  1. Individuals must invest $1 million ($500K in a Targeted Employment Area) in a “for profit” new commercial enterprise.
  2. A lawful source and route for investment resources must be demonstrated.
  3. You must submit evidence that you are, or will be, managing the new commercial enterprise (either through day-to-day managerial control or through policy formulation).
  4. The investment must be made in a legal business in the United States that is for-profit.
  5. After conditional residency is granted within the first two years, the enterprise must create ten full-time employment in the United States.

Does purchasing commercial real estate counts towards EB-5 investment?

Instead of leasing the commercial property that the new commercial enterprise occupies, you may purchase the commercial real estate as part of your overall investment. Thus, a large portion of your required EB-5 investment would go towards buying real estate that the company operates on.

However, you must still meet the “new commercial enterprise” criteria and other EB-5 visa requirements, specifically the creation of jobs. In addition, you must demonstrate a link between the investment and the creation of employment for the real estate investment to count toward your EB-5 minimum investment requirement.

Suppose you want to invest in commercial real estate for your EB-5 visa. In that case, you should work with a real estate agent who is experienced in foreign national commercial real estate transactions. Ideally, the right real estate agent should have an expert qualification such as a CIPS (Certified International Property Specialist) designation. A CIPS designee has undergone specialized training to complete international transactions seamlessly with reduced risk. In addition, they have the expertise to work with international clients, including commercial real estate transactions.

HomeAbroad can help you find the best CIPS real estate agent in your desired purchase area with expertise in international and commercial real estate transactions in the US. 

Find the best real estate agent with international expertise

Connect with a local US real estate agent(s) with CIPS designation

Should you hire a lawyer to acquire an EB-5 visa?

The EB-5 immigrant investor program is one of the most difficult to qualify for and the most expensive. Therefore, before making any significant moves toward applying for this visa, it’s well worth paying for legal advice. You may damage your chances of success in the future if you try the program on your own and fail. Furthermore, since you must first make a financial investment and apply for a green card later, you might lose a lot of money.

So, it’s advisable to hire a lawyer for legal assistance and the application procedure.

How to apply for EB-5 Visa?

An immigrant investor must complete four phases of the EB-5 application procedure to become a permanent resident of the United States:-

Step 1: Choose a qualifying EB-5 Business Investment project.

The EB-5 immigrant investor applicant must first discover a suitable business project. EB-5 commercial enterprises and EB-5 regional center program projects are the most typical businesses financed through the program. Overseas migration agents frequently assist EB-5 investors in selecting the project that best meets their requirements. To proceed with the EB-5 procedure, applicants must also satisfy accredited investor income standards.

Step 2: Invest and submit an EB-5 (I-526) petition.

The applicants must put the required investment in the project they’ve chosen. The investment must be $1 million (reverted from $1.8 million) or $500,000 (retreated from $900K) is located in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA). Then the applicant will have their immigration attorney submit the EB-5 petition (also known as a Form I-526) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The I-526 petition demonstrates that the applicant has invested, or is in the process of investing, the required funds and satisfies program criteria.

It may take a few months, depending on USCIS Processing Times to get a decision. Based on their current processing times, the Regional Center should contact you if your I-526 has been approved or denied.

What are the requirements for filing an I-526 petition?

  1. Investors in EB-5 visas must demonstrate that their money was obtained lawfully; therefore, a legitimate source and financial trail are required.
  2. The business plan must convince USCIS and comply with all “Matter of Ho” criteria, which your lawyer will verify.
    The Matter of Ho refers to the 1998 EB-5 lawsuit, which established criteria for an EB-5 business plan. This is important for EB-5 investors since their project must meet the case’s conclusions in order to be valid. They will not be able to fulfill program requirements and their request will not be accepted if their investment does not comply with
  3.  The funds must be invested in a New Commercial Enterprise and create ten new full-time US worker jobs.
  4. The investor’s money must be “put at risk” until the end of conditional permanent residency, with a chance for gain and danger of loss — without any assurance of return.
  5. For a corporation to qualify for an investment of $900,000 or less, it must fulfill Targeted Employment Area criteria at the time of the placement.

Step 3 – 2-year conditional Green Card or Permanent Residency

Investors who submit an I-526 petition and are granted approval may obtain conditional permanent residency in one of two methods: –

  1. If the EB 5 investor already has lawful status in the United States, they must file form I-485 to adjust their status to be a conditional permanent resident.
  2. Suppose the investor does not already have legal status in the United States. In that case, they must submit form DS-260 to the National Visa Center and go through a US consulate or embassy in their native country to apply for an immigrant visa.

The investor’s next stage in the EB-5 visa application is to become a two-year conditional resident of the United States, with one of the two ways outlined above. In addition, the investor must maintain a physical presence for two years and cannot be outside the United States for more than a year without obtaining a re-entry permit during the two-year conditional residency period.

Step 4 – The I-829 Petition and removal of conditional status

The final stage in the EB-5 visa application procedure is for applicants to end their two-year probationary status. The I-829 application is submitted to USCIS 90 days before the applicant’s second anniversary of obtaining conditional residence status. This application demonstrates that the investor has completed all EB-5 visa requirements. As a result, USCIS usually grants a permanent green card after the I-829 is submitted based on their current processing times. The investor, their spouse, and their unmarried underage children under the age of 21 may then permanently reside and work in the United States and have the option to apply for citizenship after five years from the date they received their initial conditional residency.

What documents are needed to submit an I-829 petition?

Here are the documents needed for an I-829 petition:

  • Conditional permanent resident card.
  • Proof of commercial enterprise was created through federal tax returns.
  • The documentation that the new commercial business received the petitioner’s capital investment.
  • Documentation that the commercial company was maintained for the entire two-year conditional residency period.
  • Prove that at least ten full-time positions were created by the company’s plan, as evidenced by payroll and tax documentation.
  • Fingerprints, a photograph, and a signature are all forms of biometric identification.

What are the benefits of getting an EB-5 visa?

The following are some of the critical advantages of the EB-5 visa for foreign investors:

  • Lawful status in the United States

This is, without a doubt, the primary objective of most foreign investors who apply for an EB-5 visa. Due to the visa, the investor and their spouses and qualifying children are given a lawful way to live, work, and study in the United States.

  • The quicker way to permanent residency and citizenship

The EB-5 visa can help you get a green card sooner than other visas and green cards in many circumstances. For example, the EB-5 visa’s initial requirements may be waived after two years. As a result, immigrants who become lawful permanent residents via the EB-5 program might be eligible for citizenship in as little as five years.

  • There is no need for visa sponsorship.

An investor on an EB-5 visa runs their sponsorship. There are no additional criteria other than the investment in a US business. They do not need to be sponsored by anybody in the United States or join any organization.

  • Return on investment in terms of money

Though the investments aid the investor in gaining entry into the United States, the appropriate investment may result in profits and extra income for them. Thus, the initial expenditure might be worthwhile beyond obtaining legal residency in America.

  • Freedom to live and work in any part of the United States

Although this is not always the case, many investors holding an EB-5 visa have the freedom to live and work wherever they choose. However, other visas come with more stringent requirements that need to be followed, or the status will be lost.

Top 3 things to keep in mind for an EB-5 Investor Visa

1. Hiring Employees for Your US Business

You must invest in a business that employs at least ten full-time workers (not including independent contractors), produces a service or product, and contributes to the economy of the United States. Full-time employment implies at least 35 hours of service per week. Indirect jobs generated by businesses that serve the prominent firm, according to economic studies, is one benefit of investing in a regional center.

The investor, spouse, and children are not included among the ten workers. Other relatives may be considered; however, they must have a valid (non-immigrant) US visa. Immigrant workers who have the legal right to indefinitely reside and work in the United States, including green card holders and any other foreign nationals with that privilege, can all be included towards the required ten.

2. An investor must be actively involved in the company.

It’s critical to recognize that you won’t send the cash and wait for your green card. The investor must engage in the firm in a managerial or policy-forming capacity. Passive investments, such as real estate speculation, are unlikely to qualify you for an EB-5 visa.

3. Source of Investment Funds

Your entire investment must come from you; you can’t pool your money with others and expect to receive your green card. To ensure the cash came from a lawful source, USCIS will look at the source of the fund. Therefore, you’ll need to produce documentation such as pay, investment, sale of lawfully acquired property, gift, or inheritance. However, the sum does not have to be solely represented by money. Cash equivalents such as certificates of deposits, loans (personally owned and guaranteed by someone else), and promissory notes can all be included in the total.

How many EB-5 Visas are issued each year?

The US government allocates 10,000 places per year to investors and their families. The below chart provides a yearly trend of the number of EB-5 investor visas issued from FY 2010-2019.

EB-5 Visas issued each year from 2010- 2019
Source: US Department of Homeland Security

EB-5 Visas Issued by Country

The below table contains lists of the top 10 EB-5 visa receiving countries in FY2019:

#Country#EB-5 Visas Issued% of Total EB-5 Visas
4South Korea6958%
10South Africa1201%
Source: US Department of State

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for a way to get your foot in the door of America, investing may be a viable option. The EB-5 program is designed with foreign nationals and their families in mind–as long as they invest $500,000-$1 million (or more) into American enterprises that create employment opportunities for US citizens or permanent residents, they can obtain legal residency status themselves after 1-2 years. Although there are some drawbacks to this process, investors must wait until there’s enough demand before being granted priority on the green card list. In addition, only regional centers offer guarantees if an investor does not receive their visa, and hold-back provisions mean that 10%-20% of funds will remain in escrow during the application process. However, the benefits (and potential advantages) to investing and obtaining status in this legal manner may well outweigh these downsides.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an EB 5 investment Opportunity?

The United States government established the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program to encourage foreign investment in American enterprises. Foreign nationals and their families may become permanent residents of the United States if they invest in a firm that creates employment.

How long does it take to get an EB 5 green card through investment?

Typically, the entire process for an EB-5 applicant to receive a conditional Green Card in the United States takes about 1.5-2 years, depending upon current processing times.

Do EB5 investors get money back?

Hold-back provisions may be found in some areas, such as 10-20% of investor EB-5 funds remaining in escrow until all investors have been accepted. In case of rejection, other regional centers provide a “guarantee” that money will be returned to investors.