What is the EB-5 program?

The EB-5 is a clearly defined route to obtaining a USA green card for an investor and their immediate family. The program, operated by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, is designed to attract investment into the USA and to create employment. The investment must be $1m, other than in areas designated as a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) where this is reduced to $500,000.

What are the benefits of this program?

•Permanent residency in the US for you, your spouse and any unmarried children under 21

• Continue to manage your other business interests or seek employment in the US

• Apply for US citizenship 5 years after being granted a conditional Green Card

• Freedom to live anywhere in the United States

• No business management experience needed

• No minimum educational qualifications required

• College fees at the same rates as US citizens

• The ability to speak English is not necessary

When was the EB-5 program established?

The US employment based fifth preference visa (EB-5) for lawful permanent residency was created in 1990 and is administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The program annually sets aside 10,000 Green Cards for immigrants who make an investment of at least $1,000,000 or $500,000 in a Targeted Employment Area, into a new commercial enterprise which will create no less than ten full time jobs or provide funding for a troubled business. An enterprise authorised by the USCIS is known as a Regional Centre.

What is a Regional Centre?

This program was implemented by Congress in 1993, creating accredited regional centres. If the regional centre is in a targeted employment area the minimum investment is reduced to $500,000.

Both private and governmental agencies may apply to USCIS in order to be designated as a regional centre. The application process is rigorous; plans must be submitted to show how economic growth will be promoted, how jobs will be created, the amount and source of capital required and how the regional centre will have a positive economic impact.

Investing in a regional center provides far greater flexibility for the investor as the new job creation target of 10 can be met through both direct and indirect job creation.

Who is the EB-5 program for?

The EB-5 program is for non-US nationals seeking US permanent residence (green card) and willing to invest at least $500,000 plus costs.

Is there an easier way to obtain a green card?

There is not an easier way to obtain a green card, unless you are interested in operating and managing a business.

What differentiates this program from other visa categories?

The EB-5 is a direct route to a green card with a specific investment. Two additional US visas are the E2 Treaty investor and the L-1A intra-company transfer categories. 

The E2 Treaty investor visa allows a non-US national to set up a business in the USA and reside there. The most prominent differences between E2 and EB-5 are that

E2 is a temporary measure visa only and must be renewed on a yearly basis depending on business activities, whilst EB-5 is a direct route to permanent residency

The E2 visa requires that the holder actively participates in the day-to-day running of their business, under an executive capacity. Depending on the EB-5 program selected, an investor is not required to have an active or managerial role, and can be a silent partner in the enterprise.

The L1-A intra-company transfer visa allows a non-US national with an existing business in their own country, with at least four employees, to establish an office in the USA. An L1-A can either be used by the business’ owner, or an executive/ manager on their behalf.

L1-A is also only a temporary measure, unlike EB-5, and can be renewed for a maximum period of up to seven years. The option exists to change an L-1A holder’s status to an executive manager in order to secure permanent residency, however this is becoming increasingly difficult.

What are the costs?

An investment of US $500,000 is made, along with up to US $70,000 in administration and immigration application and processing costs.

Can I travel during the process?

Once you have received conditional status, you are entitled to travel outside of the US for up to six months at a time. For those who need to travel for more extensive periods, they must apply for a travel permit which is valid for two years, and confirms that an investor is not abandoning their US residency despite the extended period of travel. This can be applied for up to three times. 

It is important to note, however, that this time spent outside of the USA counts against the requirement for thirty months of US presence when applying for citizenship, should you choose to.

How do I qualify for this program?

To qualify for the EB-5 program you must invest $500,000 in an approved program that will create at least 10 full-time permanent jobs for US workers. You must also be able to demonstrate that your investment money has been lawfully obtained.

Who can move with me to the USA?

An EB-5 investor can move to the USA with their spouse and unmarried children under 21

Are any nationalities excluded from the program?

No nationalities are directly excluded from the program, however for some countries additional requirements or checks may be imposed by the US Citizen and Immigration Service.

What is a Targeted Employment Area?

A Targeted Employment Area is either a designated rural region or an area which has unemployment levels that are at least 150% of the national average rate.

I want to educate my child in the U.S. Do I pay the same as a U.S. resident?

As en EB-5 Investor, you are eligible to pay the same school and college fees as those paid by full U.S. citizens. This is saving is often more than $20,000 per annum for each student.

Making the decision to apply for an EB-5 Visa

What investment choices do I have?

We work with a number of EB-5 regional centres to ensure you are provided with a choice of options to meet your own requirements and criteria.

Have the regional centres been authorised?

All regional centres have been assessed and approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services according to certain eligibility criteria in terms of their economic impact including the creation of new jobs.

Starting the EB-5 immigration process

What are the steps involved in the application process?

The steps in the process are:

• Make an investment of $500,000 plus an administrative fee in an approved program
• Your legal advisors submit your application to the US Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS)
• You then receive a conditional permanent residency (or Green Card)
• You apply for removal of the conditional status after 21 months (in order to receive a permanent Green Card)
• Five years after receiving a conditional green card an application for naturalization can be submitted to the USCIS.

How long will my conditional green card application take?

The time taken at each stage of the process will vary. The time taken until you receive your conditional green card will typically be between 12 and 21 months.

Where do I send the funds?

This will depend upon the Regional Centre that you invest in. Some will require your funds immediately; others will hold your funds in escrow until your conditional green card has been granted.

Can I visit the US during the process?

You can visit the US under the normal tourist and business visa or visa waiver programs in place.

What is the purpose of the immigration interview?

The purpose of the interview is to determine whether you are admissible to the United States. The interview is merely a formality. The officer needs to ensure that the applicant does not have a criminal record and is admissible.

Receiving a conditional green card

What is a conditional green card?

A conditional green card is a conditional residency permit allocated once an EB-5 application has been approved. This entitles you to live in the US with your spouse and children that were included in the original application for an initial period of two years.After 21 months of conditional residency you can apply for the removal of the conditions. If you have made the required investment and at least 10 full time permanent jobs have been created or preserved a permanent green card can then be granted.

Where am I able to live in the US?

An EB-5 investor and family are eligible to live anywhere in the US regardless of the location of their regional centre investment.

What are the benefits of a conditional green card?

There are many benefits of living in the United States; a conditional green card entitles the successful applicant and their family to enjoy

• Residency in the USA, initially for two years
• College fees at the same rate as that of US citizens
• A high standard of living

For how long is a conditional green card valid?

A conditional green card is valid for two years. After 21 months, there is a 3 month window in which a client must, assuming they have met the conditions, apply for the removal of their conditional status in order to receive a full green card allowing them permanent residence.

How much time must I spend in the US to retain my green card?

If a green card holder is absent for less than 6 months, there will rarely be an issue: it is down to the discretion of the USCIS to prove you have abandoned your residency.

If a green card holder intends to leave the US for more than a year, they can apply for a re-entry permit before they depart. With this, you can return to the USA even after one year, or at least until the permit expires. If more time abroad is required, it is possible to return to the US for a short period in order to apply for a new one, which can be granted for two years

Securing a permanent green card

When can I apply for a permanent green card?

A conditional green card holder can apply for a permanent green card after their conditional status has been valid for 21 months. At this stage, they can apply to remove conditional status within the next 3 months, then granting them a full, permanent green card.

Who is eligible for permanent residency status through EB-5 visa program?

Foreign nationals who have received their EB-5 conditional status can apply for a permanent green card after 21 months of residence, providing: 

They have invested, or are actively in the process of investing the required capital. This is US $1 million for a new commercial enterprise, or $500,000 for an EB-5 regional centre

10 direct or indirect employment positions have been created for US nationals

The capital invested has satisfied legal requirements

Who receives the permanent residency?

If the conditions have been met the investor along with their spouse and children included in their original application 
can receive full permanent US residency.

What does a permanent green card entitle me to?

The benefits of a permanent green card are extensive, since it grants almost all of the same privileges given to full US citizens which include but are not limited to

• The ability to leave or enter the US at will, without the risk of being challenged by an Immigration official at a port of entry 
• The right to school, university and college fees at the same rates as US Citizens
• Permission to work in any company within the USA

What are the requirements for my children achieving permanent status

The age of an investor’s minor children (under the age of 21) is frozen at the time of application for EB-5. This means that when the time comes to apply for permanent residency, they still qualify regardless of whether they have aged out in the past 21 months.

What is the difference between permanent residency and citizenship?

Permanent residency entitles an investor to the same benefits as a US citizen with a few exceptions; you do not have the right to vote and you cannot hold public office or work as a federal employee.

Can my permanent green card be taken away from me?

Yes if you spend a considerable amount of time outside of the United States or are convicted of certain crimes.

Naturalization as a US Citizen

When can I begin the process of becoming a fully naturalized U.S. citizen?

Five years after receiving a conditional green card you are eligible to start the process of becoming a fully naturalized US citizen.

What are the requirements for full U.S. citizenship?

You must be a lawful permanent resident for at least five years.

How long does the application take to become a naturalized U.S. citizen?

Usually it takes several months./p>