What is EB-5?
The EB-5 Program, also known as the Immigrant Investor Program is administered by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Under this program, investors and their spouses and unmarried children under 21 are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) if they invest a minimum of $500,000 in a commercial enterprise in the United States that creates 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. Congress created the EB-5 Program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economic growth. In 1992, Congress created the Immigrant Investor Program (also known as the Regional Center Program), which sets aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises associated with regional centers approved by USCIS for the purpose of promoting economic growth.
EB-5 Process & Eligibility Requirements
These are the basic steps to obtain permanent residency (Green Card). Note: When it comes to visa wait times, applicants from different countries experience varying wait times, depending on the country of origin and application backlogs. The information below is an example only.
1) The applicant must find an EB-5 project to invest in, generally a new commercial enterprise or regional center project. Migration agents often help EB-5 investors find a project that best suits their needs. Additionally, Regional Centers will often advertise their EB-5 projects that are available for investor funding.
2) After choosing a project, the applicant must make the required capital investment of $1 million, or a minimum of $500,000 if the project is situated in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), which is an economically disadvantaged area. An immigration attorney provides proof of this investment by filing an I-526 petition with USCIS who then informs applicants (typically after 12 to 18 months) whether their I-526 petition has been accepted. If your I-526 is denied, most regional centers will refund your investment money.
3) The applicant is eligible to become a U.S. resident once their I-526 petition has been approved by USCIS. An immigrant visa is issued, on average, in six to twelve months. During the two-year conditional residency period, the investor cannot remain outside of the U.S. for more than one year without obtaining a re-entry permit.
4) The final step is for the applicant to become an unconditional permanent resident by removing their two-year conditional status. This is accomplished by submitting an I-829 petition to USCIS 90 days prior to the second anniversary of the permanent green card 6 to 8 months after the I-829 has been submitted. The investor, their spouse, and their unmarried children under the age of 21 can then permanently live and work in the United States and have the option to become U.S. citizens after a five-year period from the date they received their initial conditional residency.
H-1B to EB-5 Visa
If you currently have a H-1B Visa, you will be able to apply for an EB-5 Visa, which can be done while you are working and living in the United States. You would continue working for your current employer under the H1-B Visa.
The EB-5 application will not affect your H-1B status whatsoever, provided you remain in H-1B status during the processing of the EB-5. However, you need to take into consideration how much time is remaining on your H-1B Visa and and current I-526 processing times. If your H-1B expires before you are issued an EB-5 Visa, you may have to leave the U.S. for a period of time.
Benefits of EB-5 Visa: You are making a financial investment into an EB-5 real estate project, with returns. You have more control, unlike H-1B as you have to rely on your employer. EB-5 allows you to work and live wherever you want, and work for whatever company you want.
Before you move forward, it is highly recommended you contact an experienced immigration attorney, such as our legal team, who provide investors and their families sound investment immigration advice.
What is an EB-5 Regional Center?
An EB-5 Regional Center is a service agent organization designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that sponsors capital investment projects for investment by EB-5 investors and developers looking to complete a project under the EB-5 Program. Also known as "Immigrant Investor Program", this program has become an important source of investment for development projects in the U.S. whose purpose is to create jobs and growth in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA). The EB-5 Program is designed to allow foreign investors to gain permanent residence (a “green card”) in the United States. To qualify for the EB-5 Program, they can invest directly in a job-creating project, or through a USCIS approved Regional Center.
Most EB-5 investors and developers choose the Regional Center route because it relieves the investor from managing their EB-5 investment. For the investor, this means they do not have to live near their investment and can live and work in any state. For the developer it means an experienced regional center staff can act in a managerial role such as finding investors, raising capital, handling legal matters, and filing the necessary paperwork and I-526 petitions. If your project is to construct apartments or mixed-use real estate, you will need to partner with a regional center because your project is not likely to create enough direct jobs to qualify for EB-5. There are other huge benefits of partnering with a Regional Center that you can learn about below, "Benefits of EB-5 Regional Center".
Benefits of EB5 Regional Center
Starting your own regional center is a long and complicated process, which is the reason most choose to partner with an existing regional center. If you are experienced with EB-5 then you may choose to operate your project through a Regional Center and manage the project yourself. Or, if you do not have EB-5 experience then a Regional Center can act in a managerial role such as finding investors, raising capital, handling legal matters, and filing the necessary paperwork and I-526 petitions, etc.
There are significant benefits including marketing your project through an EB-5 Regional Center. The biggest challenge is finding investors. If you do not have this experience, it could be very difficult to break into the market on your own. If your project is to construct apartments or mixed-use real estate, you will need to partner with a regional center because your project is not likely to create enough direct jobs to qualify for EB-5. Regional Centers are allowed to claim credit for indirect as well as direct job creation, a major benefit to you. Other benefits include:
- No sponsor is needed
- No minimum education or business management requirement
- Investment capital can come from any lawful source, including a loan or gift
- There is no quota waiting list for the EB-5 program
- Job creation requirement is satisfied by counting both direct and indirect jobs
- A portion of the annual number of EB-5 Green Cards are reserved for qualifying immigrants who participate in an EB-5 Regional Center project
- Investors are not required to live in the place of investment; they can live and work anywhere in the U.S.
- Great for those not interested in day-to-day management of their project/investment.