EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Employment-Based Fifth Preference Visa, is an opportunity not only to invest money in United States capital projects, but most importantly, to obtain a green card (permanent residency) for you and your family. Applying for permanent residency through the EB-5 Program provides great benefits because there are no country limits or sponsor requirements. Furthermore, for Chinese and Indian nationals, the processing time is significantly less than other immigration applications and categories.
Under the EB-5 Program, there are two ways of investing: (1) Direct Investment and (2) investment through Regional Centers. Under either methods, the investor has to provide an investment of $1 Million or $500,000 in a “New Commercial Enterprise” and create 10 jobs within two years of receiving his or her conditional permanent residency. The investment can be cash or other types of capital investment such as tangible property, secured indebtedness, etc. (based on American Fair Market Value). An investor is allowed to invest only $500,000 and benefit from EB-5 if he or she invests in an area deemed as a “Targeted Employment Area.” A “Targeted Employment Area” is typically an area that has unemployment of 150% of the national unemployment rate.
A Direct Investment is where the investor creates, invests, and manages an investment by himself or herself. USCIS requires that the investment be made directly in the New Commercial Enterprise and that the 10 jobs be created within the new enterprise. On the other hand, through the Regional Center program, investors are able to invest in Regional Center projects and show job creation directly or indirectly. One common example of indirect job creation is when a Regional Center lends money to another business, and then the other business hires full-time employees. The other business’s new employment counts as indirect job creation for the investor. Due to the more lenient requirements for Regional Center investments, over 90% of investors apply for EB-5 green cards via Regional Centers instead of through direct investment.
You may wonder, whether EB-5 is a great investment opportunity. EB-5 is more of an investment in your permanent residency in the United States, than a high-return investment vehicle. Investments made must be “at risk,” meaning like any other investment project, there is no guarantee that the investment will be returned or that there will be a high-rate of returns. In fact, one sign to be weary of when looking at Regional Centers is whether they promise a high-rate of returns. They are not allowed to do so. However, researching and finding a good investment project with a reliable Regional Center is key to overcoming these risk factors. To that point, due to the rise in popularity of the EB-5 Program, there has been an increase in fraudulent Regional Centers and investment projects. Due diligence at the initial EB-5 stage will provide more assurance that the investment is safer, with likelihood of capital preservation and interest earned. Furthermore, many Regional Centers provide in their EB-5 agreements that the investment will be held in escrow until the investor’s provisional green card is approved.
EB-5 is a complex area of immigration law that has a lot of moving parts. Your immigration attorney can work to ensure that your projects and preferred Regional Center are EB-5 compliant and make sure there are no immigration risks. Furthermore, USCIS has strict evidence requirements in which an EB-5 investor has to properly document the source of his or her investment. This is a meticulous process that if done incorrectly, leads to substantial requests for evidence and/or denial. However, if you work with a skilled immigration attorney, you can ensure that all the necessary information is properly documented. Furthermore, when evaluating EB-5 applications, USCIS does full and comprehensive evaluations on the investor and his or her immigration history. An immigration attorney can go through that process with you to make sure there are no red flags.
Below is a brief overview of the EB-5 investment and application process:
(1) Find an investment opportunity through Direct Investment or a Regional Center;
(2) Speak to an immigration attorney regarding immigration risks and qualifications;
(3) Apply for EB-5 legal permanent residency (Form I-526);
(4) After approval, receive 2-year conditional permanent residency;
(5) 90 days prior to the expiration of the conditional permanent residency, apply to remove condition (Form I-829); and
(6) After 5 years of originally obtaining permanent residency, apply for citizenship (Form N-400).
For more information, please see the following links:
USCIS EB-5 Page: https://www.uscis.gov/eb-5
List of Approved Regional Centers: www.uscis.gov/eb-5centers
If you have any questions regarding the EB-5 Program, please contact us today. ImmigraTrust Law is here to help with all your EB-5 immigration needs. We look forward to hearing from you!
--Najmeh Mahmoudjafari, J.D.
Najmeh is the Founder and Lead Immigration Attorney at ImmigraTrust Law, an immigration law practice in Orange County, California, representing individual and corporate clients in all 50 U.S. States and internationally. Najmeh can be reached at Najmeh@ImmigraTrust.com.
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