EB-5 investor visa

case full of 100 dollar bills

In August I attended a two day conference in Chicago on the EB-5 investor visa.  The conference was presented by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  The EB-5 is the “million dollar” investor visa.  I’m oversimplifying here, but if you invest a million dollars into a US business and employ ten US workers you may be able to obtain lawful permanent residence.  There were a lot of takeaways from the conference for me.  I wanted to share a few of them with you.

1. Targeted Employment Areas.  If you don’t want to invest a million dollars it may be possible to invest $500,000 into a Targeted Employment Area and still get a green card.  A Targeted Employment Area is any rural area outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area or outside the boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more.

2. Regional Centers.  If you don’t want to be hands on with a business and prefer a more passive route you may be interested in investment with a Regional Center.  According to the Association to Invest in the USA (IIUSA):

“An EB-5 Regional Center is an organization, designated and regulated by USCIS, which facilitates investment in job-creating economic development projects by pooling capital raised under the EB-5 immigrant investor program. Regional centers can be publicly owned, (e.g. by a city, state, or regional economic development agency), privately owned, or be a public-private partnership.”

Investing in a Regional Center can still be fraught with problems even though it has earned the designation from USCIS.  Projects can fail, get delayed, lose money, not generate enough jobs for the various EB-5 investors, etc.  You must absolutely do your own due diligence before investing in a Regional Center.

3. Investing in an existing business.  You can invest in an existing business and obtain permanent resident status through the EB-5 program.  You need to create 10 new jobs in addition to the ones that already exist at the business.  You cannot be a passive investor if you invest in an existing business.

4. Currently unavailable for Chinese investors.   Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Department of State Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division, announced that  the EB-5 preference category had become “unavailable” for Chinese applicants. The maximum number of EB-5 immigrant visas which are available for Chinese applicants for fiscal year 2014 has been reached.  More visas will be available for Chinese nationals in October 2014 with the beginning of the new fiscal year.  Based on current patterns EB-5 investors from China will eventually end up being oversubscribed and will have significant delays in getting visas through the EB-5 program.  EB-5 is still available for everyone else!

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