Foreign nationals wishing to invest in or trade with the United States may pursue legal permanent residence or a temporary visa by making the necessary capital investment in a commercial enterprise.
Investor & Entrepreneur Visas
E-1 Treaty Traders
The E-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa classification reserved for nationals of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. This visa allows an individual to enter the U.S. to engage in international trade. A current list of countries with which the U.S. maintains a treaty can be found here.
E-2 Treaty Investors
Like the E-1, the E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa classification reserved for nationals of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. However, the E-2 visa allows an individual to enter the U.S. when he or she invests a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business. What is considered a “substantial” investment depends on the type of business, among other factors. A current list of countries with which the U.S. maintains a treaty can be found here (Treaty Countries).
EB-5 Investor Visa Program
The EB-5 visa is a path to permanent residence ideally suited to wealthy foreign nationals for whom employment- or family-based immigration is unavailable. The EB-5 visa program exists primarily to stimulate the U.S. economy and create jobs for U.S. workers. The foreign national wishing to pursue this path will select and make the necessary capital investment in one of many commercial enterprises structured to receive EB-5 funding. The investment must ultimately create or, in certain circumstances, preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. The rules are complex and vary according to the investment vehicle. In all cases, however, the source of the investment funds must be traceable to lawful activities.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the EB-5 visa?
The EB-5 visa is a permanent resident visa acquired through job-creation made possible by investing in a new commercial enterprise (NEC) which will directly or indirectly create 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers while promoting economic growth in rural areas or in targeted employment areas where the rate of unemployment is generally above the national average.
What is the current EB-5 capital investment amount?
The location where the commercial enterprise will be principally doing business or creating jobs determines the minimum capital amount required to invest in an EB5 program. Effective November 21, 2019 the minimum capital amount is generally $1,900,000 (up from $1,000,000) or if the investment is in a commercial enterprise located in a rural area or area of high unemployment, the amount drops to $900,000 (up from $500,000).
What other costs are associated with making an EB-5 investment?
In addition to government filing fees associated with the filing of the EB5 visa processes and legal fees, an investor who invests in a regional center will also pay an administrative fee to the Regional Center.
What is the difference between an investment made through a regional center and one that is not associated with a regional center?
Regional Centers are organizations authorized by USCIS to promote capital investment projects structured to accept EB5 investor capital towards the attainment of US permanent residence. EB5 investments in regional centers generally eliminates the need for the investor to participate in the day-to-day operations of the new commercial enterprise and rather limits the investor’s activities to policy-making decisions in the role of limited partner or member. A non-regional center direct investment on the other hand requires active participation and control of the project by the EB5 investor.
Another advantage in investing in an NEC affiliated with a regional center is the inclusion of indirect jobs created by the EB5 investment whereas a direct investment unaffiliated with a regional center can only count the number of direct permanent full time jobs created by the investment towards satisfying the job creation requirement.
Is there a list of USCIS-approved Regional Centers with active investment programs?
Yes. The USCIS website provides a list of currently active and authorized Regional Centers. USCIS also publishes the names of the Regional Centers that have been terminated.
Is it necessary to document the source of funds?
Yes. The investor bears the burden of proving by credible documented evidence that the capital invested in an EB-5 project derives from lawful sources.
Are members of the investor’s family eligible to immigrate under a single investment?
Yes. A single EB-5 petition is needed to qualify the investor, spouse and minor children for the benefits of the EB-5 immigrant visa preference. Upon approval of the petition, the investor and each family member, however, must apply for his or her own immigrant visa and qualify for permanent residence on the basis of the standards of admissibility imposed by law.
What are the risks associated with the EB-5 program?
All investments in commercial enterprises are subject to loss. An investor seeking EB5-based permanent residence must consider his/her ability to manage and control an investment in a new commercial enterprise, direct the business with a view towards growth, and have sufficient financial wherewithal to sustain him/herself during the initial start-up or restructuring stages of the investment in order to maintain the capital investment at risk throughout the entire process and attain the number of full time hires required.
Additionally, if investing in a regional center, the investor must bear in mind that not all regional centers are created equal. An investor is responsible for diligently investigating an EB5 opportunity before investing in it. USCIS clearly states on its website that approval of an EB-5 regional center application does not constitute a government endorsement of activities of that regional center; guarantee compliance with U.S. securities laws; or minimize or eliminate risk to the investor. Potential investors are encouraged to seek professional advice when making any investment decisions.
At what point in the investment process can the investor immigrate to the U.S.?
Immigration to the U.S. in conditional permanent resident status is possible upon approval of the initial petition.
How long does the process take?
Historically, USCIS has processed the initial EB-5 petition within, on average 18-22 months from the date of filing of the petition. Investors are urged to not make plans to immigrate, divest oneself of assets, undertake commitments in the U.S. until the petition is approved.
Upon approval of the petition, the immigrant visa process or adjustment of status (if residing in the U.S. when the petition is approved) can take 6-8 months.
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