The EB-5 Immigrant Visa: Investing in America

1. What is an EB-5 immigrant visa?

The EB-5 immigrant visa stands for the fifth employment-based preference visa category that permits foreign nationals to obtain permanent residence (i.e. a greencard) in the United States by investing in a commercial enterprise in the United States.

2. How much money do I have to invest to qualify for the EB-5 immigrant visa?

In most cases an investor wishing to qualify for the EB-5 immigrant visa must invest at least $1 million. If an investor is investing in a “targeted employment area,” typically an area that has been identified as economically underserved, the minimum amount needed for investment is $500,000.

3. Can’t I just buy real estate worth $1 million to qualify for the EB-5 visa?

Unfortunately, one cannot just buy real estate or make other passive investments in the United States in order to qualify for an EB-5 immigrant visa. First, in order to qualify, the investment must be a new commercial enterprise as opposed to a personal residence or other passive investment. Second, the enterprise must create at least 10 new jobs for U.S. workers (i.e. U.S. citizens or permanent residents). Third, the investor should be involved in the management of the company, although he or she does not necessarily need to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.

4. Can’t I just invest in an existing business in the United States instead of having to develop a new one in order to qualify for the EB-5 immigrant visa?

Instead of creating a new commercial enterprise, an investor can invest in an existing commercial enterprise in the United States in order to qualify for the EB-5 immigrant visa. The investor still must meet the minimum requirements of investing at least $1 million (or $500,000 for targeted employment areas) and hiring at least 10 U.S. workers. However, in addition to these requirements, the investment must either increase the net worth of the business by 40 percent in increase the number of U.S. workers by 40 percent. Therefore, by investing in an existing commercial enterprise, an investor might have to invest more than the required $1 million or hire more than the 10 workers depending on the size and value of the existing business at the time of investment.

5. Once I am approved for an EB-5 immigrant visa, will I then receive permanent residence status?

Once an investor is approved for an EB-5 immigrant visa, he or she first receives conditional permanent resident status similar to people who obtain conditional resident status through marriage to a U.S. citizen. After 2 years the Citizenship and Immigration Service (“CIS”) will make a determination on whether the investor has met the minimum requirements and maintained his or her investment. Once a positive determination is reached, the Service will remove the conditional status.

6. I heard that the U.S. Congress just passed legislation concerning the immigrant investor visa pilot program. What is this legislation?

The U.S. Congress recently passed a bill, S. 1685, which extends for another five years the immigrant visa regional center pilot program until 2008. The program allows immigrant investors to invest in certain approved “regional centers” in order to obtain an EB-5 immigrant visa. The benefit of this investment is that the investor does not have to demonstrate that it hired at least 10 U.S. workers through its commercial enterprise in order to qualify. Instead an investor can qualify by demonstrating that its investment in the regional center will lead to increased revenues through an increase in the export of goods and therefore indirectly lead to an overall increase in U.S. jobs. Otherwise, the same rules apply and the investor must invest at least $1 million (or $500,000 in a targeted area) in order to qualify under the investor visa pilot program.