EB-5 is a visa category that allows for immigration by investment into the United States. Under this program, a single investment can allow the investor, their spouse, and unmarried children under age 21 to receive a permanent visa (green card).
What is a qualifying EB-5 investment? The minimum amount is $1.8 million, or $900,000 for projects located in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA). The investment project must create or preserve at least 10 qualifying jobs per EB-5 investor.
The EB-5 program is administered by United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Congress created the EB-5 program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy. In 1992, Congress added the Regional Center Program, which sets aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises associated with regional centers designated by USCIS. In 2019, USCIS finalized regulations to increase the standard EB-5 investment amount from the original level of $1 million ($500,000 in TEA) to $1.8 million ($900,00 in a TEA).
What is an expedited visa?
An expedited EB-5 project is one that has been determined by USCIS to serve an urgent humanitarian need and/or a compelling U.S. government interest. Investors who can demonstrate that their investment, by investing in an expedited project, will serve an urgent humanitarian need and/or a compelling U.S. government interest, may also receive expedited processing of their I-526 petition (however, expedited processing is not guaranteed.)
By investing in an expedited EB-5 project, investors may need to wait only a few months instead of a few years for their I-526 petition to be approved (however, to remind again, expedited processing is not guaranteed.)
EB-5 Advantages for Investors
Immigration through the EB-5 program can have many advantages.
US Green Card. EB-5 visas provide lawful permanent residence for the investor and family members.
Self Petition. EB-5 does not require an offer of employment, family sponsorship, or lottery.
Flexibility. As a permanent resident, the EB-5 investor can live and work anywhere in the U.S. without restrictions.
Speed. For nationals of many countries, the EB-5 visa is one of the fastest paths to a green card.
Education. U.S. residency offers educational benefits and may facilitate college admissions and reduce tuition costs.
Open. There are no educational, business background, or language requirements for EB-5 investors or their family members.
Passive. The EB-5 investor need not majority-own, personally manage, or live near the investment project.
Investment. The EB-5 investor makes a single investment, and has the possibility to receive a return of the invested capital.
Permanent. The EB-5 investor and qualifying dependents are eligible for citizenship after five years of permanent residency.
Investor EB-5 Application Process — 5 Steps
Obtaining permanent residency through the EB-5 program involves a series of steps.
Selection. Identify an appropriate EB-5 project for investment. Advisors, agents and regional centers can help to locate and evaluate projects. Read more about available EB-5 projects from EB-5 Coast-to-Coast.
Investment. Prepare the required capital investment. The minimum qualifying EB-5 investment amount is $1.8 million, or $900,000 if the project is located in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA). Consult with immigration advisors regarding strategy for source of funds, and how to transfer funds to the project. Our legal team can help.
Immigrant Petition. After making a qualifying investment in an EB-5 project, file a Form I-526 petition with USCIS. The I-526 petition provides evidence regarding the investment project and source of investment funds. I-526 processing times have varied widely, with a reported average of 20 months in 2019.
Conditional Green Card. After I-526 approval, apply for conditional permanent residency. The applicant may file a visa application with the U.S. Department of State (if residing outside the U.S.) or a Form I-485 application to adjust status with USCIS (if residing in the U.S. under another visa status). For applicants from countries with visas available, the process typically takes six to twelve months on average. For certain countries, waiting for an available visa number can add months or even years to the wait time. The monthly Visa Bulletin indicates which countries have EB-5 visas currently available. Upon approval, the applicant, the applicant’s spouse, and any qualifying children receive two-year green cards and can enter the United States.
Unconditional Green Card. Within 90 days of the end of the two-year conditional permanent residency period, submit a Form I-829 petition to remove conditions. This petition provides evidence that the EB-5 investment was sustained and has created jobs. When USCIS approves the I-829 petition, the investor and family members become permanent residents without condition. They may continue to live and work in the U.S., and they have the option to become U.S. citizens after five years from when they became conditional permanent residents. USCIS does not require EB-5 investment to be sustained after the I-829 has been filed.
Requirements for EB-5 Investors
The EB-5 program has no age, language, education, business experience, or nationality restrictions for EB-5 investors or their family members. However, investors must be able to prove with documentary evidence that they acquired the invested funds legally.
Acceptable sources of EB-5 investment funds include:
Accumulation of income/savings
Earnings/dividends from business
Gifts from family members
Profits made from sale of real estate property
Loans, properly collateralized
Immigrants through the EB-5 program must also be able to pass a consular screening interview, a criminal background check, and a medical check.
H-1B to EB-5
If you currently hold an H-1B visa, you can apply for an EB-5 visa while you continue to live in the United States and work for the employer designated by your H1-B visa. The EB-5 application will not affect your H-1B status, provided that you remain in H-1B status during EB-5 processing. If your H-1B expires before you are issued an EB-5 visa, however, you may have to leave the U.S. for a period of time. It is important, therefore, to consider how much time is remaining on your H-1B visa, given current I-526 processing times.
With the EB-5 program, you are making a financial investment in a project, with potential for investment returns. Unlike H-1B, you can make an EB-5 petition yourself, without relying on an employer. Once you obtain residency through EB-5, you are free to live anywhere in the U.S. and to work for any company.
Before you move forward, we recommend that you contact an experienced immigration attorney, such as our legal team, to discuss your specific circumstances and objectives.
What is an EB-5 Regional Center?
An EB-5 Regional Center is an entity designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to promote economic growth by sponsoring projects to raise EB-5 investment.
There are currently hundreds of approved regional centers, each designated to sponsor projects within a specific geographic area in the United States. USCIS designates a regional center based on an application that explains how the regional center will promote economic growth in its area. To ensure that a designated regional center remains eligible, USCIS reviews its annual reports to verify that it has continued to comply with all applicable laws and authorities.
Over 90% of EB-5 visas issued over the past decade have been for applicants who invested through the regional center program.
Working with an EB-5 Regional Center
An EB-5 investor may choose to invest directly in a job-creating project, or to invest in a project that has a regional center sponsor.
Most EB-5 investors and developers choose to work with established regional centers. Starting your own regional center is a long, complicated, and expensive process. Investing without a regional center sponsor means limited options for amount and use of investment. Finding EB-5 investors is difficult. Partnering with an established regional center allows accessing regional center program benefits, and benefitting from the regional center’s resources and experience.
Benefits of Regional Center Partnership
Marketing Support. The biggest EB-5 challenge is finding investors. If you do not have this experience, it could be very difficult to break into the market on your own. Our team at EB5 Coast to Coast has been active in the EB-5 market since 2011, and has helped to match over 380 investors with EB-5 projects.
Project Options. Regional center projects can claim credit for indirect as well as direct job creation. In practice, this means that real estate projects must have a regional center sponsor, to allow counting construction jobs. The ability to count indirect jobs increases the amount of EB-5 investment that can be raised, and possible uses. It also expands structure options. EB-5 investors through a regional center need not have an equity interest directly in the job-creating project.
Administrative Support. An experienced regional center team can assist with identifying and marketing projects, raising capital, preparing documents, coordinating the EB-5 process, and providing oversight and reporting for EB-5 compliance.
Track Record. An approved regional center has been reviewed and vetted by USCIS, based on an initial application and annual reports. Project documents for a regional center project can be submitted for advance review and approval by USCIS. EB5 Coast to Coast has a 100% approval rate since 2011 on investor petitions submitted for investment in its regional center projects.
What is a TEA?
A Targeted Employment Area (TEA) is a geographic area that qualifies for the incentive of a reduced minimum investment amount. For EB-5 applicants who invest in a project located in a TEA, the required minimum investment is lowered from $1.8 million to $900,000.
As defined by USCIS, a TEA can be a rural area or a high-unemployment area.
A rural area means an area that is not with the boundaries of a metropolitan statistical area, or of a city or town with population of 20,000 or more.
A high unemployment area is an area that has experienced unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate. Areas that can be designated for high unemployment include a metropolitan statistical area, county, single census tract, or group of census tracts.
USCIS specifies that the unemployment data provided to the public by the Census Bureau (through the American Community Survey) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics qualify as reliable and verifiable data to qualify a TEA.
The regional center will provide evidence to show that a project location meets TEA qualifications. This evidence will be submitted and reviewed as part of the investor’s Form I-526 petition.
Why EB5 Coast To Coast?
Our mission at EB5 Coast To Coast is to help you achieve your investment and immigration goals as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
We operate regional centers covering 41 states, and have active projects.
Since 2011, we have helped over 380 investors navigate the complicated but extremely rewarding process of obtaining green cards through the EB-5 visa program.