The EB-5 investment visa program can be a fast track for foreign nationals to gain permanent residency in the United States; however, not everybody qualifies and not all applicants will gain citizenship through the program.
The EB-5 program is capped at 10,000 people per year. Of these, 3,000 are reserved for foreign nationals who invest in rural areas or places with high unemployment rate. After the first 10,000 applications have been accepted, everybody else is put on a waiting list and their place in line is determined by the day they filed the first portion of their application.
The good news is that there hasn’t yet been 10,000 applications in any given year. Plus, that number only includes the principal applicant, not their spouses or children. So theoretically, a lot more than 10,000 people per year can get their permanent visas through this program.
Seek Legal Advice
The first step before applying for an EB-5 visa is to hire an attorney to help you. That’s because the EB-5 visa is one of the most complicated (not to mention expensive) paths to citizenship. Paying a lawyer to help you navigate your way through the program will make the process smoother and can help protect your investment.
If you ignore this advice and try to work your way through the EB-5 visa system yourself and your application is denied, it could effect your chances of getting citizenship through the program later.
Determining Your Eligibility
Through the EB-5 program, you can earn your green card if you invest a minimum of $1 million in creating a new US business or restructuring/expanding an existing one. This minimum investment is reduced to $500,000 if you invest within certain circumstances.
In some instances, you may be required to invest more than $1 million. This can occur if the foreign investor chooses to locate their business in an area that is thriving economically, rather than helping support a struggling area.
The business you invest in also must employ a minimum of 10 full-time workers who are already US citizens. Plus, it needs to create some sort of product or service and it must benefit the US economy.
Must Actively Engage in the Business
It’s a mistake to think that you can simply invest your $1 million then sit back and wait for your green card to arrive in the mail. The program’s rules require investors to be actively involved in the running of the business. That means you must have either a managerial or policy-forming role.
Passive investments — like land speculation — won’t usually qualify you for the EB-5 visa program. Your investment must be in a new commercial business. This can be either a business you create or an existing business that you buy that was originally established prior to November 29, 1990. You also can buy an existing business and restructure or reorganize it so that it is an entirely new business entity.
There are two exceptions to this requirement:
1. You can buy an existing business and expand it as long as you increase the number of employees or the business’s net worth by at least 40%.
2. You can buy a failing business and save it from going under as long as the business has been around for at least two years and has ahad an annual loss of 20% or more.
In both cases, you must still invest a minimum of $1 million and create at least 10 new US jobs.