EB5 Visa Program 2021 The Ultimate Guide by Experts | GCS

The United States (U.S) has long welcomed foreign investors to its shores, in an attempt to boost the U.S. economy and create full time positions. Obtaining permanent residency aka the Green Card is attainable through the EB5 visa program. And in case you were wondering, the U.S offers a fantastic lifestyle for expats, with ample work opportunities, high living standards, and a thriving cultural scene awaiting newcomers. 

In this EB 5 program guide, learn about:

  • Benefits of applying for the eb5 visa
  • How to qualify for the visa program
  • Investment routes to take
  • Plus more!

What is The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program?

Launched in 1990, the immigrant investor program in the U.S was set up to attract foreign investment capital in the country, and in turn, encourage economic growth and stimulate job creation. Foreign nationals must make a qualifying investment into a new or existing commercial enterprise that creates ten US jobs to successfully obtain green cards. 

Benefits of becoming an EB 5 immigrant investor

Enter and leave the country as a permanent resident

Enter and leave the country as a permanent resident

Path to United States citizenship possible

Path to United States citizenship possible

Work, travel, live and study anywhere in the United States

Work, travel, live and study anywhere in the United States

No language or professional experience needed

No language or professional experience needed

Secure your family’s future

Secure your family’s future

Family perks: The investor, spouse, and children under 21 count as one green card. This means they can also become lawful permanent residents. 

EB5 Visa Eligibility requirements

There are several basic requirements that determine your eligibility for the scheme.

You must:

  • Make a lawful capital investment in an enterprise that equals to or is greater than $1.8 million (or $900,000 if investing in a Targeted Employment Area ‘TEA’)
  • Plan to create or save ten permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers
  • Hold a clean criminal record
  • Be in good health

TEA requirements

TEA designation applies to projects located in a rural area of the country or in a high unemployment area, with a national unemployment average of 150%.

See a map of all TEAs here.

Job-creation requirements

Your foreign investment must result in creating ten full time direct jobs to qualify for the program. Note that over 95% of all investments are made in the Regional Center Program, since it allows indirect and induced jobs to count toward this job creation principle. In this case, the requirement is easier to fulfill than going with a direct investment.

Return on your EB 5  investment

Will your capital be returned in full, or at least, will you acquire an attractive rate of return? Sadly, there is no guarantee this is possible. Having said this, this doesn’t mean that investors are undertaking an unnecessary risk.

There are things you can do to determine the strength of an investment made. This includes the capital stack, and developer equity wjhich shows skin-in-the-game. The way it works is, EB5 visa contributions are usually classified in the first position in the capital stack, and are thus, secured fully by equity in the project. 

Another aspect to help determine profitability of your investment is your exit strategy. Your exit strategy must match with your I-829 filing date, the time at which your investment is no longer classified as ‘at risk’. While this is tricky to determine, add some cushion to your time calculations. 

Typically speaking, an EB-5 project with immigration benefits isn’t one that usually offers a high rate of return. But since the market is ever evolving, legitimate investments are offering better returns than before.

Step-by-step guide to the EB5 process

1. Research your options
2. Select a eligible EB5 project
3. Make the investment and file petition
4. Receive a two-year conditional permanent residency
5. Removal of conditions and enjoy full residency

Research

Do your homework into the process of obtaining the visa. Understanding your investment is important, considering the entire process takes up to eight years. 

Select

Choose a qualifying project that meets the program requirements. Consider two outcomes: acquiring residency in the country, and return of capital. Once you decide on a project, reserve a spot in the New Commercial Enterprise. An extra tip would be to hire a immigration attorney to do a due diligence check on your desired project.

Invest

Send your funds to escrow and submit your I-526 petition. Approximately ten days after, you’ll receive a receipt notice from the USCIS (the body that processes your investment) confirming they’ve received your case. The date they receive your case is referred to as your official priority date.

Receive conditional residency

If you pass the visa interview process with the Visa Consular, you will receive a temporary immigrant visa which will be stamped on your password. With this stamp, you can move to the US and apply for a green card. Note that the validity of the card is two-years. During this timeframe, you must meet the conditions of the program, including creating ten jobs with your investment, have your money classified as -at-risk throughout the two-year conditional residency period, and reside in the US for at least a year- In this case, if the USCIS deems you eligible to receive your money back at the end of the conditional period, your money usually is no longer noted as -at-risk. 

Conditions removed, full residency attained

In the last 90 days of your conditional residency status, your lawyer will file your I-829 petition. This application provides proof that you’ve met all the requirements under the program. Once you’ve completed your temporary residency, you’re eligible to receive your investment back. Afterward, you can live permanently in the country with a permanent green card. 

EB5 Visa Application Processing Time

From picking your project to consulting with an immigration attorney, lodging your application, through to passing your visa interview and going from conditional residency to permanent residency, the entire processing time takes on average, four to six years.

1-3 months: Research and begin your EB-5 journey

10 months-2 years: Wait for application approval

3-6 months:  I-526 accepted, priority date obtained, apply for conditional green card

2 years: Start conditional residency

24 to 30 months: Apply for permanent residency

Taxes

A holder of the EB5 visa is automatically considered a US resident alien for tax reasons. This means that all income from the US and other corners of the world are subject to US taxes.

Just in case, anyone planning to pursue this visa should note down the days they are physically present in the country by taking the Substantial Presence Test. This establishes whether you’re a US tax resident based on your physical presence in the nation.

Can I get citizenship?

EB5 isn’t a citizenship by investment scheme. This means you cannot directly get citizenship. However, you can apply for a US passport after being a permanent residency in the country for five years.

So, a green card holder can obtain citizenship by naturalization, provided that all requirements are met beforehand.

Document checklist

The documents required for filing are extensive. We recommend consulting an EB5 specialist to assist you with your application.

Project documentation

  • Proof that the main applicant has invested in a designated Regional Center. A letter from USCIS should be attached with Form I-526 designating the Regional Center. Your investment in a  business enterprise must match with the geographic area specified in this letter.
  • Evidence, if applicable, that your business has been set up in a targeted employment area.
  • Proof that the investment in the Regional Center will generate at least ten direct or indirect full-time jobs.

General documentation

  • Copy of passport (current & expired) and Form I-94
  • Copy of Family Member Passports (all pages)
  • Evidence that you have invested or are in the process of investing the amount required ($1,800,000 or $900,000)
  • Household Registration
  • Copy of Any Previous Immigration Applications
  • Certified copies of any judgment, pending governmental civil or criminal actions, or private civil actions against the petitioner from any court in or outside the country. within the past 15 years.

Financial documentation

  • Proof of Business Ownership
  • Copy of any and all Business Licenses
  • Last five years of Tax Returns (both business and personal)
  • Last five years of Bank Statements
  • Evidence of other sources of capital
  • Financial Statements for each business
  • Evidence that the investment funds were obtained through lawful means

Conditional permanent resident card

  • Evidence that a commercial enterprise was created, like federal tax returns
  • Documentation that the new commercial enterprise received the petitioner’s capital investment
  • Documentation showing the commercial enterprise was maintained for the entire conditional residency period of two years
  • Proof that at least ten full-time jobs were created according to the business plan, as per payroll and tax records
  • Biometric documentation including fingerprints, photograph, and signature
  • Legal documents pertaining to the  applicant’s criminal history (if applicable)

Translations

All documents in a foreign language must be accompanied with a full English language translation, certified by a competent translator.

Copies

Unless an original document is specifically required to be filed with an application or petition, a photocopy may be submitted. Original documents submitted will remain a part of the record, even if the submission was not required.

Fees

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an EB5 Visa?

It’s a US immigrant visa that allows immigrant investors to gain a permanent green card, provided that a qualifying investment is made first and ten jobs are created.

Is my family eligible for the program?

The main applicant’s spouse and children under the age of 21 can also obtain residency through the same investment.

What are the basic requirements for the scheme?

Each investor must make a minimum investment of $1.8 million or $900,000 (if investing in a Targeted Employment Area “TEA”) and create jobs (ten to be exact). 

What are EB-5 regional centers?

 Basically, a EB 5 regional center is an entity that sets aside EB-5 visas for investors, designated by USCIS to help encourage economic growth.

Can you receive your capital back?

The goal of the program is two-fold. To receive permanent residency and get the initial investment amount back. Well-structured investments have a solid exit strategy, whereby investors are repaid in full plus interest.

How long is the application process?

 It takes between 1.2 to two years to receive your conditional green card. This timeline depends on your nationality.

What is a Targeted Employment Area?

 It basically means a designated area pre-determined by the government where investors can invest in. It’s classified as either a rural area, or an area that has experienced high unemployment rates (defined as at least 150% of the national average unemployment rate).

Should I seek assistance with my EB 5 application?

When it comes to applying for an i investor visa, looking into immigration services for assistance is a fantastic idea. Specifically, citizenship and immigration services offer a full range of support, from consulting you on the requirements, down to helping you submit your application.