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The road to getting a green card that lets you live and work in the US permanently has many starting points and forks along the way, with some routes being more straightforward than others.
The EB-5 initiative is one of the most interesting options of the pack, providing foreign investors with a way to secure a visa that’s primarily based on their ability to commit capital to the American economy by starting a business on US soil.
If you’re in this category of visa applicants and you want to know more about how the process works, read on as we talk through the eligibility requirements, the application and approval process, and the other hoops you’ll have to jump through.
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Introduction to The EB-5 Program
It was all the way back in 1990 when the EB-5 scheme was created, and it continues to operate successfully to this day.
The purpose is simple; economic growth requires both public and private investment in businesses and infrastructure.
To stimulate this, overseas individuals were incentivized to launch new businesses in America in return for permanent residency not only for themselves but also for their spouses and any children aged under 21.
Understanding Minimum Investment Requirements
In the most recent reform of the EB-5 program, changes were made to the base level amount of investment that foreign nationals need to make in order to be eligible for a visa as part of this initiative.
For applications filed prior to March 2022, the minimum is still set at $1 million. For those filed after this period, this has increased to 1.05 million and will be reviewed and increased in line with inflation every 5 years going forward.
It’s important to note that this investment minimum is lowered to $500,000 for pre-2022 filings, or $800,000 for filings made more recently, if the money goes toward a targeted employment area (TEA).
TEAs are defined either by being rural, with populations under 20,000 people or by having levels of unemployment that are 150 percent higher than the national average.
So in short if you’re happy to build a business in a less prosperous part of the country, you won’t need as much capital available to kick-start your for-profit enterprise.
Meanwhile, if you’ve got your sights on markets that are already thriving, it will cost you more to get in on the ground floor.
Considering Business Options
In terms of actually choosing which type of commercial endeavor to pursue, you have two distinct choices.
You can either start entirely from scratch or invest in EB5 visa projects that are part of an affiliate network.
With the former, you’re able to exert complete control over the business and its operations. With the latter, you get to benefit from a more hands-off approach, which may or may not suit your goals and preferences as an investor.
There are also minimum requirements to take onboard in terms of employee numbers. New enterprises created under this program must recruit and retain at least 10 full-time team members for a minimum of 2 years to be eligible.
The people you do hire must be American citizens, or people who already have work visas. This makes sense because the program is about job creation, particularly in the case of TEAs.
Looking to The Long Term
Applying for and receiving an EB-5 visa is not something that happens overnight. As well as meeting all of the aforementioned requirements before you can even submit an application for review.
There’s also the fact that you must leave your investment in place for two years in order to be granted a full green card for permanent residence.
This is to dissuade foreign investors from seeing the program as a means of buying a visa. It’s more of a long-term investment opportunity that brings with it the attached benefits that come with having permanent resident status in the US.
Another point to make is that your investment can net you significant returns, so long as the business does well in the interim.
So you aren’t just throwing your money into a black hole in exchange for a green card, but rather grabbing the chance to see it blossom in the months and years to come.
Obviously, it’s possible that EB-5 businesses will struggle like any other, but things like the aforementioned affiliate schemes and regional centers help to mitigate risks.
Other Avenues to Explore
The last thing to remember is that the EB-5 program is just one of many employment-based visa solutions available to foreigners who have the ambition of moving to America on a permanent basis.
You could also receive an employer-sponsored visa, for example, so long as you meet the criteria, have the right skills, and can prove that no US citizen could fill the same role as you.
There are also visas for those who have made exceptional contributions to society at large, perhaps as a result of their academic research or their sporting prowess.
Visas are also available depending on your family relationships and your heritage, so don’t discount any of these options.
It’s best to think of receiving an EB-5 visa as just one of many positive outcomes which result from building a business in the US.
That way you can focus on making your commercial enterprise a success, rather than only thinking about that must-have green card.