If you are a South African citizen hoping to gain a foothold in the US and obtain permanent residency, the EB-5 Visa might be the ideal option for you.
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program offers South African investors and their family members (their spouses and unmarried children under 21) the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residence and become a Green Card holder by making a qualified investment that creates jobs in the US economy. For more details on the program, please see our article EB-5 Visa US 2023: The Ultimate Guide by Experts.
This article will guide you through the process of obtaining an EB-5 Visa for South African nationals.
EB-5 Visa: An Overview
The EB-5 program, run by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the aim of promoting economic growth, is open to foreign investors who are willing to make a substantial investment into a qualifying commercial enterprise in the United States. This can be a new enterprise or an existing one. You must, with your investment, create at least ten full-time positions for American workers. You can choose to invest individually or to invest through a Regional Center program.
In return, South African citizens can receive a Green Card and gain access to the various benefits that permanent residency status offers.
Seven Benefits of an EB-5 Visa for South African Citizens
For South African citizens, there are many advantages to acquiring an EB-5 Visa, such as:
Green Card eligibility: Successful EB-5 investors, along with their immediate family members (spouse and unmarried children), receive conditional Green Cards (otherwise known as permanent residence status), allowing them to live, work, and study anywhere in the United States.
Potential pathway to United States citizenship: After maintaining your investment and residency requirements for a specified time period (typically five years), you can apply for United States citizenship.
No employment restrictions: You can work in any field, and your job does not have to be in the same state as your investment.
No sponsoring employer requirement: The EB-5 Visa program does not require foreign nationals to have an employer to sponsor their visa, unlike some other visa categories.
Potential return on initial investment: Generally, an EB-5 investment isn't one that usually reaps a high rate of return. However, since the market is constantly evolving, legitimate investments are offering better returns on investments than before.
Visa-free travel access: With an EB-5 Visa, South Africans can travel visa-free to and from the US, the Schengen Area, and other nations and territories that they would typically need to apply for a visa to visit.
No daily management of your investment is required: If you invest in the Regional Center Program, you are not required to be involved in the daily operation of the business, enabling you to pursue your own business interests.
There are two main types of investment that can make you eligible for an EB-5 Visa: individual investment and investment through a regional. In this section, we will explore these options and outline their requirements.
This option is more suitable if your main focus is to establish a new business or continue a commercial business activity in the US, maintaining full control over investments and expecting a great return on your invested capital. In this case, you must develop a commercial enterprise initially capable of creating ten full-time jobs for US citizens and permanent residents.
Investing through a Regional Center may be an excellent option if you plan not to be involved in the daily operation of the business, want to be mobile in geographical terms, and if the business venture you’re interested in is not capable of creating ten direct full-time jobs from the start. Regional Centers are USCIS-approved entities that manage EB-5 projects, and they are now the predominant vehicle for those who apply through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. In April 2023, there were 640 approved Regional Centers.
To qualify for the EB-5 program, you must invest a minimum amount of capital, which is currently set at $1,050,000. However, if your investment is made in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), which is typically an area with high unemployment or rural characteristics, deemed as such by the USCIS, the minimum investment is reduced to $800,000.
EB-5 investment challenges for South Africans
Meeting these requirements can be slightly more complex for South African citizens than for other foreign investors because of the strict foreign exchange regulations that are set by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).
South African citizens over the age of 18 may transfer 1 million Rand overseas without South African Revenue Service (SARS) tax clearance, and the amount they can transfer increases to 10 million Rand per year provided they receive SARB tax clearance and a foreign investment tax clearance certificate. It is possible to invest more than this limit to meet the TEA minimum investment of $800,000 or the $1,050,000 required for direct investment, but special permission would be needed from SARB and SARS.
Because the investment funds required are substantial, and these foreign exchange regulations can make an application to the EB-5 Visa program complex, it is advisable for South Africans to seek advice from an immigration expert with specialist knowledge of the EB-5 Visa.
Requirements for Obtaining an EB-5 Visa
There are no specific requirements for South African citizens to qualify for the Immigrant Investor Program; to be eligible for an EB-5 Visa, you generally need to meet the following requirements:
Investment: Invest the minimum required capital investment amount in a new commercial enterprise.
Job creation: Your investment must create or preserve at least ten full-time jobs for qualifying US workers within two years of your admission to the US with conditional permanent resident status.
At-risk investment: Your business investment must be at risk for the purpose of generating a return on the capital placed at risk. You will need a business plan and other supporting documents to demonstrate the legitimacy of the business.
Lawful source of funds: You must demonstrate that the invested funds were obtained from a legal source (using documents such as bank statements).
Risks Associated with Obtaining an EB-5 Visa
There are various risks associated with an EB-5 Visa application. They can include construction delays for investment projects, changes in market conditions, and changes to government policy. Ultimately, such risks can lead to the potential loss of initial investment.
To mitigate against such risks, it is imperative to do thorough research and carry out due diligence on any EB-5 investment projects, as well as to consult with experts.
How to Obtain an EB-5 Visa as a South African Citizen: Step-By-Step Procedure
To gain a full understanding of the process involved in obtaining a visa, please see our article EB5 Green Card Process Steps — Ultimate Guide.
EB-5 Visa for South Africans: In Brief
The EB-5 Visa is one of two investment visas available to South Africans. Unlike the other in this category, the EB-2 Visa, it offers a direct path to a Green Card, which confers significant benefits.
has increased since the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program was introduced in 1990, the main challenge in EB-5 Visa applications remains the foreign investment allowance, set by SARB and SARS. In order to overcome this challenge, we recommend that you consult with an expert in immigration services.
How Global Citizen Solutions Can Help with Your EB-5 Visa Application
Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique investment migration consultancy firm focused on finding the right residency or citizenship by investment program for individuals wishing to secure their future and become global citizens. Our multilingual team has extensive experience in US Visas and a track record of successful applications. We guide individuals and families from start to finish, providing expert advice considering freedom, mobility, taxation, and security.
- We have helped hundreds of clients from 35+ countries in all the top Residency by Investment and Citizenship by Investment programs. With an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the area, we provide our clients with solid guidance.
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Frequently Asked Questions About the EB-5 Visa for South Africans
What is the EB-5 Visa?
The EB-5 program, run by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to promote economic growth and create jobs for US workers through capital investment, is open to foreign investors who are willing to make a substantial investment into a qualifying commercial enterprise in the United States. This can be a new enterprise or an existing one. You must, with your investment, create at least ten full-time jobs for American workers. You can choose to invest individually or to invest through a Regional Center program.
Can I apply for an EB-5 Visa while in the US on a different visa?
Yes, you can apply for an EB-5 Visa while in the US on a different visa. However, the process can be complex, and it is prudent to consult with an immigration attorney to navigate the transition smoothly.
What are some common reasons for the denial of EB-5 Visa applications?
Common reasons for denial can include failure to meet the investment and job creation requirements, inability to demonstrate a lawful source of funds, incomplete or inaccurate documentation, and changes in project circumstances.
How do I determine which of the Regional Centers is suitable for me?
When evaluating Regional Centers, it is crucial to conduct thorough due diligence. Research the track record of the Regional Center, evaluate their investment projects, and consider their experience in the industry. Additionally, consult with professionals, such as immigration attorneys and financial advisors, who can provide guidance in choosing a reputable Regional Center.
How should I approach tax planning as an EB-5 investor?
Foreign nationals with EB5 Visas are considered to be temporary visa holders. You are subjected to US tax on your worldwide income, and you are required to disclose your foreign assets and accounts to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Before reporting your global income and investment to the US government, you must take the Substantial Presence Test (SPT), to determine how many days you have resided in the US in the past three years. The tax rules for the EB-5 Visa are very complicated. It is recommended that you consult a tax attorney to evaluate the tax consequences of getting a Green Card.