The Immigrant Investor Program is also known as EB-5 program. It has become an increasingly important source of investment for development projects in the USA. The program attracts billions of dollars to the U.S. economy and creates tens of thousands of jobs in the USA. It is the only visa program whose purpose is to create jobs and growth and designed to allow foreign investors to gain permanent residence in the USA.
Investment Immigration USA: How Does the EB-5 Program Work?
The EB-5 requires a minimum investment of $1 million or $500,000 if the investment is in a rural or targeted high unemployment area where unemployment is 150% of the national average. The investment also must result in the creation of at least 10 jobs.
There are 10,000 EB-5 visas available each Fiscal Year.
To qualify for the EB-5 program, immigrants can invest directly in a job-creating business, or they can invest through regional centers approved by USCIS to promote economic growth in designated areas.
If the investor’s initial application is approved, the investor can apply for a conditional residence in the United States. Once approved, the conditional residence lasts two years. After two years, the investor can apply to have the conditions removed and have the conditional residency made permanent. This only happens if the investment has resulted in the required creation of a minimum of 10 jobs.
Investment Immigration USA: EB-5 Procedure
- Investment made in the EB-5 project
- Foreign national files petition (I-526) with project and source of funds documents with USCIS
- USCIS verifies the investor funds came from a lawful source
- USCIS decides the I-526 petition
- If approved, USCIS sends petition to Department of State, National Visa Center (NVC)
- If abroad investor prepares DS260
- If abroad American Consul interviews investor and family, reviews case for grounds of inadmissability
- If within the USA investor prepares I-485 for interview in USA
- Visa approved or denied. If approved investor and family immigration to US as conditional permanent residents
- Investor files removal of conditional resident status (I-829) and provides evidence that project created 10 jobs.
- USCIS verifies the creation of 10 jobs, and issues decision on final green card
Investment Immigration USA: History of EB-5 Program
Congress created the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.
In the beginning the program was undersubscribed, with only a few of the 10,000 available visas being used each year. This was due to the long and complex application process, changes in financial requirements, and the fact that there were very high denial rates for investor petitions. In 2005 USCIS created an Investor and Regional Center Unit to increase oversight and internal coordination and issued new draft recommendations designed to accelerate processing and increase efficiency.
Since 2005 approval rates have improved, and the denial rate for petitions to remove conditions on permanent residency has dropped from 38% in 2005 to 6% in 2012. This greatly improves the odds of success and the reliability of the program as a way for investors to obtain residency.
The number of EB-5 visas issued to foreign investors increased from a low of 64 in 2003 to more than 1,300 in 2008, according to a 2010 government-commissioned study by ICF International.
The number of visas issued to investors in regional centers reached 9,130 in 2014, according to the State Department. A total of 9,228 visas were issued in FY 2014, including non-regional center direct investment projects.
What is a Regional Center?
A regional center is an economic entity, public or private, that promotes economic growth, regional productivity, job creation, and capital investment. To obtain an official regional center designation, the entity must submit a proposal to USCIS. For approval and an official regional center designation, USCIS requires that the proposal show how the center will promote economic growth in a geographical region within the United States.
Although the designation of regional centers does not imply government endorsement or eliminate or reduce risk, an investor in a regional center project can take advantage of a more expansive concept of job creation, including indirect jobs created collaterally from EB-5 investment and direct jobs created as a direct result of EB-5 invest funds in order to qualify the applicant for the visa.
An example of an indirect job would be any full-time job at a hotel due to a hotel being built through EB-5 investments by a regional center.
The regional centers can serve an important role by selecting investors and investment projects to ensure high-quality, long-term job creation.
Regional centers are multiplying and have become the predominant vehicle for EB-5 investment. As of January 4, 2016, USCIS has approved approximately 790 regional centers.
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), § 203(b)(5)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “About the EB-5 Visa,” http://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-fifth-preference-eb-5/about-eb-5- visa.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program,” http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Resources%20for%20Congress/Congressional%20Reports/EB- 5%20Investor%20Pilot%20Program.pdf. 3. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “EB-5 Immigrant Investor Process,” http://www.uscis.gov/workingunited-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-fifth-preference-eb-5/eb-5-immigrant-investor-process.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program,” http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Resources%20for%20Congress/Congressional%20Reports/EB- 5%20Investor%20Pilot%20Program.pdf.
Government Accountability Office, “Immigrant Investors, Small Number of Participants Attributed to Pending Regulations and Other Factors,” http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05256.pdf.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Interoffice Memorandum, “Establishment of an Investor and Regional Center Unit,” http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/Static_Files_Memoranda/Archives%201998- 2008/2005/eb5unit011905pub.pdf
Singer and Galdes, “Improving the EB-5 Investor Visa Program: International Financing for U.S. Regional Economic Development,” Brookings-Rockefeller, 2014, 9, http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2014/02/05%20eb5/eb5_report.pdf.
ICF International, “Study of the United States Investor Pilot Program (EB-5),” http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Reports%20and%20Studies/EB-5/EB5-Report-2010.pdf.
Department of State, “Table VI (Part IV) Preference Visas Issued Fiscal Year 2014,” http://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/AnnualReports/FY2014AnnualReport/FY14AnnualReport-TableVI-PartIV.pdf.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Policy Memorandum, “EB-5 Adjudication Policy,” http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/2013/May/EB- 5%20Adjudications%20PM%20%28Approved%20as%20final%205-30-13%29.pdf.