Your Comprehensive Guide to the EB-5 Visa Program
As one of the world’s largest economies, The United States has been attracting foreign investors to establish footholds there. Some of them also seek to secure permanent residency status in the country. As a solution, Congress created the EB-5 visa program as a pathway to green cards.
The implementation of this program has given a significant boost to U.S. economic growth. Billions of dollars that were invested helped create jobs across the country. At the same time, the investors profited from their investments, making this program beneficial for both parties.
What Is an EB-5 Visa?
The EB-5 (employment-based, 5th preference) is an immigrant investor program that grants foreign investors legitimate permanent residency by requiring them to fulfill specific criteria, including making a significant investment in a U.S. commercial enterprise. With this visa, the applicant’s family members may also be eligible for green cards. This program was created by the U.S. Congress in 1990 to boost the economy.
Regional Center Program vs. Traditional Direct Program
To apply for an EB-5 visa, applicants can choose between the two primary methods: the traditional direct option and the regional center program—the primary distinction between the two lies in how the investment is made.
In a regional center program, the applicant invests through a regional center or a government-approved organization. On the other hand, in a traditional direct program, you need to make a direct investment into an existing business.
Immigrant Investor Program Eligibility and Requirements
An applicant must fulfill two basic requirements to qualify for an EB-5 visa. First, they must invest in a US-based business and meet one of the minimum investment amounts. Second, they must intend to create or maintain a minimum of 10 full-time jobs. If they fail to meet these conditions within two years of visa issuance, their permanent residence might be revoked.
The minimum capital investment required to apply for the EB-5 investor visa has fluctuated over the years. Before 2019, it ranged from $500,000 to $1,000,000. An applicant must invest a minimum of $900,000 to $1,050,000. There’s a high possibility that this range will be adjusted again to account for inflation.
The exact minimum amount depends on which region you invest in. The lower amount should apply if you invest in a TEA (targeted employment area). A targeted employment area typically refers to either a rural area or an area with high unemployment.
However, if you invest in any commercial enterprise outside those areas, the minimum investment amount would be the higher end of the range.
Applicants don’t have to invest in cash. They can also contribute other assets such as equipment, inventory, secured debt, or tangible property.
Applicants must create or preserve at least ten full-time jobs for U.S. workers within two years of the investor’s admission to the United States as a conditional permanent resident. It can either be direct or indirect.
Direct job creation occurs when the company hires employees. On the other hand, indirect job creation involves jobs emerging from the business’s activities. When you invest in a company located in one of the regional centers, your investment can create direct or indirect jobs. However, your investment must generate ten new direct employees if the commercial enterprise is not located in a regional center.
Involvement in Business Activities
The applicant must have an active managerial or policy-forming role in the company they invest in. It’s impossible to gain an EB-5 visa by simply sitting back and passively waiting.
Source of Funds
The applicant must prove that the investment funds were obtained legally and are not derived from criminal activities. Furthermore, the USCIS will thoroughly investigate the source of the funds to confirm it. The investor will be required to submit documentation to support this. Acceptable proofs include salary, investments, legitimate asset transactions, gifts, and inheritances.
An investor won’t be eligible for this visa if their funds are shared with other visa applicants. The entire amount must come from one investor only.
New Commercial Enterprise
To be eligible for the EB-5 visa, the applicant must invest in a new commercial enterprise founded after November 29, 1990. If they still want to invest in a company that was established before or on that date, it must undergo a significant reorganization or be purchased. Alternatively, the investment must result in a 40% increase in the overall worth or workforce of the organization.
Applicants also have the option to save a troubled business from bankruptcy by maintaining the same number of employees as the company had at the time of investment. In this case, the company must have experienced a net loss of 20% of its value within the 24 months before purchase.
It also means that the company must be at least two years old. With this scheme, investors are not obligated to prove that they created ten jobs.
The Cost of an EB-5 Visa
First, the applicant must submit Form I-526, or “Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur.” This form currently has a fee of $3,675. Applicants outside the United States must also pay a visa application processing fee of $345.
However, if the applicant is applying from within the United States, they must pay an additional $1,140 to file Form I-485 or the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.” A biometrics service fee currently costs $85, making the total fee around $4,900.
Your attorney can provide the latest fees needed to apply for an EB-5. These fees change from time to time.
Note that these prices don’t include the cost of any medical examinations or other document processing fees, including the attorney’s fees.
Can an EB-5 Visa Be Denied?
Yes. Your visa might be denied for failing to satisfy specific criteria within the given time. One of the most common reasons for visa denial is insufficient proof of funds.
The USCIS demands substantial paperwork to verify that you can maintain your business. It also needs to confirm that your funds have not been acquired illegally. Many applicants can’t provide that paperwork, so they fail to get their green cards.
Another reason for visa rejection is a job creation issue. Although you’ve provided enough proof, the USCIS might not trust that you can create at least ten new jobs.
Having your EB-5 visa application rejected can be highly frustrating, primarily after you’ve invested a lot of money. However, you can minimize the risk of visa denial by taking preventive measures such as hiring an EB-5 visa lawyer.
The Need for EB-5 Visa Lawyer
Using the services of an immigration law firm is always a good idea to ensure you’re taking the proper steps. Acquiring a green card through the EB-5 visa program is a long, complicated process that might take years. With the help of an immigration attorney from a leading law firm, this process can be more straightforward, and you’ll get a better chance of gaining permanent resident status.
Is It Difficult to Get an EB-5 Visa without a Lawyer?
The USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) has rigorous requirements that you need to satisfy before you can migrate. However, meeting the criteria and providing documentation alone doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a green card.
There are other hidden criteria and considerations USCIS might have, such as the applicant’s home country. Obtaining a green card could be challenging if your country of origin has a history of fraud.
In addition, the rules of this program can change anytime. If you don’t keep up with those changes, the outcome of your application can go badly.
While immigration attorneys won’t promise you’ll get a green card, they might assist you in finding ways through other hidden criteria with their experiences. They’ll also help you keep up with the requirements and documents needed, so your application process can go smoothly.
What Can an EB-5 Visa Lawyer Help with?
An EB-5 visa lawyer can help with various aspects of the EB-5 visa application process, including paperwork management, application filing, communication with the USCIS, and due diligence.
Experienced EB-5 lawyers will provide valuable guidance to investors throughout the process. They can help you determine whether the EB-5 program is the right fit for your needs. Additionally, they can ensure all documentation is completed correctly and meet USCIS regulations. That way, you can reduce the risk of delays or denials.
An EB-5 lawyer will also keep track of your investment progress, including the job creation requirements. They ensure that you comply with all necessary criteria and timelines. If any issue arises throughout the process, they can help you address it.
How Much Does a Lawyer Charge to Help with an EB-5 Visa?
To hire an experienced immigration lawyer, be prepared to set aside at least $15,000. The number can go up to $25,000 or more, depending on your needs. This doesn’t include the visa administration fee and other processing fees that a Regional Center may have set up.
Given the complexity of the EB-5 process and the substantial amount of investment at stake, paying for legal advice should be a wise decision. The money they charge for their services might not even make up 10% of your total investment, so it’s undoubtedly well worth it.
The EB-5 visa program, or the immigrant investor program, is a unique opportunity for foreign investors to obtain a green card in the United States. The program also boosts the country’s economy and reduces unemployment. However, navigating the process successfully can be complex and takes a long time. It’s also extremely risky because of the high amount of minimum investment.
One way to increase the likelihood of obtaining a green card through this pathway is by working with an experienced EB-5 lawyer. They can help investors understand the program’s requirements, prepare, and submit their applications.
An experienced EB-5 lawyer will provide peace of mind by ensuring your applications are handled correctly. As a result, you’ll have a higher chance of obtaining a green card.
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