What is an EB-5 Visa?
The US Congress created the EB-5 (Employment-Based Category #5) Investor Visa in 1990 with the aim of promoting economic growth in the nation by attracting foreign investment, creating job opportunities and enabling business activities.
The EB-5 Visa program, designed for immigrant investors, provides a route to US permanent residency through foreign investments made within the United States, and it has become one of the most popular investment visa programs in the world, granting approximately 10,000 EB-5 Visas per fiscal year to foreign investors.
By 2020, almost 80,000 foreign investors had applied for EB-5 Visas, with the vast majority (about 80 percent) of applications coming from four territories: the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, Taiwan (Republic of China), and the United Kingdom. The visa is also popular in India, Brazil, Vietnam, Nigeria, and Mexico.
Major projects under the EB-5 program include the Hudson Yards real estate development in Manhattan and Interstate 95, which runs from Maine to Florida and serves more than 110 million people.
By participating in the EB-5 program, you have the opportunity to obtain permanent residency and eventually become a US citizen, by investing directly in a job-creating commercial enterprise or investing through Regional Centers approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to promote economic growth in designated areas.
In this EB-5 Visa US guide, you will learn about:
- The benefits of applying for the EB-5 Visa
- How to qualify for the EB-5 investor visa program
- Investment routes to take
- And much more
Benefits of Becoming an EB-5 Immigrant Investor
- Under just one EB-5 Visa application, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years are all eligible to become Green Card holders.
- You can travel to and from the US, which makes international travel easier.
- There are no employment restrictions, meaning that you can work in any field. Your job does not have to be in the same state as your investment.
- If you invest in the EB-5 Regional Center Program, you don’t need to be involved in the daily operation of the business. The Regional Centers manage EB-5 projects and investor funds, allowing you to pursue your own business interests.
- After five years, you may be eligible for US citizenship. Alternatively, if you do not wish to apply for citizenship, you can replace your Green Card every ten years without going through a review process.
EB-5 Visa Requirements for Investors
The EB-5 program is open to foreign nationals who are willing to make a substantial investment into a qualifying “new commercial enterprise” in the United States.
Investing in a new commercial enterprise can mean creating a new business or investing in an existing business. If you are investing in an existing business, it must have been established after November 29, 1990; or, if you invest in a business created on or before that date, it has to be restructured or reorganized so that the number of employees or net value increases by 40 percent.
Alternatively, you can invest in a “troubled business.” A troubled business is defined as a business that has already existed for two years and has had a net loss of at least 20 percent in the 12 to 24 months before you submit Form I-526 (this is the first step in your EB-5 Visa application, which is outlined later). There is also a job creation/job maintenance requirement: Applicants who invest in troubled businesses must create or preserve at least ten full time jobs.
Typically, the business structure of the project you invest in will be a limited liability company or limited partnership, but other structures, such as a sole proprietorship, a corporation, a joint venture, a holding company and its wholly owned subsidiaries, or a business trust, could also qualify.
With your capital investment, unless you’re investing in a troubled business, you must create at least ten full-time jobs for American workers.
While there are no specific education or language requirements, you must be able to demonstrate the lawful source of your investment funds (which can be from loan proceeds or gifts; you can also include a promise to invest, known as a promissory note) and meet the program’s investment requirements.
There are two main paths you can choose: You can invest individually or through the Regional Center program.
This option is most suitable if your main focus is to establish a new commercial enterprise or continue a commercial business activity in the US, and you want to maintain full control over investments as well as get a return on your invested capital.
If you choose this option, you must develop a commercial enterprise initially capable of creating ten full-time jobs for US citizens and permanent residents.
Investing through the regional center program 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 are interested in is not capable of creating ten direct full-time jobs from the start. This is also a popular choice as these projects have a higher level of regulation and accountability than direct investment projects.
Regional Centers are private or public economic entities designated by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services To promote growth and job creation in specific regions.
Investing in this way offers certain advantages, such as the ability to count both direct and indirect creation of jobs toward the program’s requirements. Another advantage of working with a Regional Center is that they work with individual investors and their immigration lawyer(s), providing them with advice and helping them to compile the necessary documentation throughout the entire Green Card application process.
The Department of State has estimated that more than 90 percent of applications for EB-5 Visas have been made by immigrant investors working with Regional Centers.
As of April 2023, the USCIS, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, had approved 640 Regional Centers. Check here to find the list of government-approved programs.
As the center will be responsible for managing your investment, it is crucial that you do due diligence when you are selecting one to invest with. 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 center.
EB-5 Visa minimum investment amount
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 an area with a high unemployment rate or rural characteristics, the minimum investment is reduced to $800,000. The fair market value of all capital invested is calculated in US dollars.
Ten full-time jobs requirement
In addition, the investment must be in an active for-profit business and must result in the creation of ten full-time positions per EB-5 investor. For each investor, the project must create at least one direct job and up to nine “indirect” jobs. “Indirect” refers to jobs that are created as a result of the project through external labor to service the project by providing goods and services. These jobs must be calculated according to economic models approved by the immigration service.
What is a Targeted Employment Area?
Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) are geographic areas designated by state authorities or through approval from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. TEAs are areas with high unemployment rates or located in rural regions.
Investing in a TEA allows you to benefit from the lower minimum capital investment requirement.
The USCIS determines that a qualifying rural area is any area other than an area within a standard metropolitan statistical area or within the outer boundary of any town or city that has a population of 20,000 or more.
Meanwhile, for petitions that were filed before March 15, 2022, a high unemployment area is an area that has an experienced unemployment rate of at least 150 percent of the national average unemployment rate. For petitions filed on or after March 15, 2022, it is an area designated as having high unemployment by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
EB-5 Visa Update: Changes in Legislation
On 11 March 2022, the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act was signed into law, bringing changes to the program. The reform allows for further deployment of foreign investment capital anywhere in the United States or its territories. Therefore, including for petitions filed pre-enactment, further deployment is not required within the same regional center or within any regional center’s geographic area.
Like any investment, the EB-5 program carries inherent risks. It is essential to carefully assess the potential risks associated with the project, such as market conditions, construction delays, and changes in government regulations.
While EB-5 investments should be at risk, the risk can be mitigated. Foreign investors can recoup their investment by filing their petition to remove the conditions on their two-year conditional Green Card, depending on the terms of the agreement with the Regional Center, as long as the Regional Center project has been successful.
EB-5 Business Plan Requirements
A comprehensive EB-5 plan should provide an overview of the project you are investing in, its industry, its objectives, and the products and/or services it offers. It should also encompass a strategic market analysis, detailing your competitors, their relative strengths and weaknesses, a comparison of their offerings and pricing strategies, as well as insights into their target markets and potential clientele.
The plan should also include a list of the necessary permits and licenses, a description of the manufacturing or production process, the required materials, and sources of supply, if applicable. It should clearly define any agreements related to the procurement of materials and/or the distribution of products.
Furthermore, the plan should provide as much detail as possible about the project’s marketing strategy, covering aspects such as pricing, advertising, and customer service.
The plan should provide an organizational structure of the project and outline the qualifications of its personnel, highlighting that you have a management team with the expertise and experience to manage the business. It should also specify the company’s staffing needs, including a hiring timeline and job descriptions for each position, which should demonstrate that the project can meet the job creation requirements.
Additionally, it should include estimates for sales, costs, and income, as well as a description of how the estimates have been calculated. Above all, the plan must be credible.
USCIS evaluates business proposals holistically, with individual officers determining whether the plan is likely to be thorough and reliable. While not all specific aspects are mandatory in a plan, the more details provided, the greater the likelihood that USCIS will decide that the plan is comprehensive and legitimate.
If you are making a direct investment, it’s highly recommended to seek assistance from an immigration attorney to ensure that your plan meets USCIS standards.
For Regional Center investments, the Regional Center can provide assistance throughout the process, but it would still be beneficial to consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that your plan has the best possible chance of succeeding.
The EB-5 Application Process
- Conduct thorough research: Gather information about the EB-5 program, investment options, project developers, and Regional Centers.
- Choose an investment project: Select a project that aligns with your investment goals and risk tolerance, and make the investment
- File an I-526 petition: Submit Form I-526 (Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur) to USCIS and provide evidence of your investment and job creation plans, which the National Visa Center will process and decide whether to approve or deny.
- Once Form I-526 is approved, there are two options: If you are already in the US with a valid non-immigrant status, apply for an adjustment of status (Form I-485, officially Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). If you are abroad, apply for an EB-5 Visa at a consulate or embassy (Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration).
- Visa interview: You will have to attend an EB-5 Visa interview with a consular officer, which is a comprehensive assessment of your eligibility for the EB-5 program, focusing on your project, how your investment creates jobs, and your overall adherence to program requirements.
- Conditional Green Card: If your petition is approved, you will receive a two-year conditional Green Card.
- Removal of Conditions: After two years, file an I-829 petition to demonstrate that you have met the program’s requirements.
- Green Card: Upon approval, you will receive a permanent Green Card.
EB-5 Background Check and National Security Screening
USCIS mandates that all prospective immigrants undergo background checks and a national security screening process. These checks involve examinations conducted by different agencies, including the Department of State and US Customs and Borders Protection.
The processes encompass searches in databases related to criminal and national security records, scrutiny of your fingerprints, and an examination of personal information, including your name, place of birth, and birth date, which is performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
USCIS may also verify that you are not associated with, or suspected of involvement in, money laundering or other financial crimes.
The foremost concern of the US government is to ensure that you have a clean criminal record, do not pose any threats to national security, and have no prior immigration violations.
It’s worth noting that not all criminal charges or immigration violations automatically disqualify you from an EB-5 application. If you have any concerns regarding the background checks or national security screenings, seeking advice from an experienced immigration attorney can help you assess whether the EB-5 Visa is a suitable option for you and guide you on the most appropriate course of action.
Before you receive your Green Card, you (and your family members, if applicable) must also have a medical examination so that the US government can determine that you have had any required vaccinations and that you don’t have any medical conditions that may pose a threat to public health in the country.
If you’re applying from outside the US, you will need to go to a doctor authorized by the US consulate or embassy that is handling your application. If you’re applying from inside the US, your medical exam will be carried out by a USCIS-approved doctor. In either case, you should bring a written record of your vaccination history.
During the medical examination, a doctor will review your medical history, and give you a physical examination, blood tests, and a chest X-ray. There is also a mental health screening.
The Visa Bulletin and Your Priority Date
The Visa Bulletin is a vital resource when you’re seeking a Green Card. It is a monthly publication issued by the US Department of State, offering essential information about visa availability.
The Visa Bulletin is organized into two main sections: Family-sponsored preference categories and employment-based preference categories.
Within those sections, there are various visa preference categories, each assigned numerical quotas by the US government. These quotas determine the availability of visas for specific categories and countries.
A key aspect of understanding the Visa Bulletin is comprehending the concept of priority dates.
A priority date is the date that the USCIS received your petition (also known as your filing date). It establishes your place in the waiting line for visa processing. The Visa Bulletin sets a cutoff date for each preference category and country.
If your priority date precedes the listed cutoff date, a visa is available, allowing you to proceed with your Green Card application.
If the priority date is later than the cutoff date, the visa is not yet available, and you must wait until your priority date becomes current to apply for your Green Card.
A “C” listing in the Visa Bulletin indicates that the category is current, enabling Green Card applications to be filed without regard to the applicant’s priority date.
Path to Permanent Residence and Citizenship
Conditional Green Card and filing Form I-829
Upon approval of your EB-5 petition, you will initially receive conditional permanent residence, which is valid for two years. To remove the conditions, you must demonstrate that you have met the program’s requirements, primarily the direct investment and job creation criteria. You do that by filing Form I-829.
Once Form I-829 is approved, the conditions are removed, and you will receive a permanent document, changing your immigration status from conditional permanent resident to unconditional permanent resident.
Benefits of permanent residence
With lawful permanent resident status, you will have the right to live and work anywhere in the United States, as well as enjoy some of the same legal protections and opportunities as US citizens.
When applying to become a lawful permanent resident, you can include your spouse and children in your green card application.
Additionally, lawful permanent residents can sponsor certain family members for their own green cards, opening doors for family reunification in the United States.
Differences between permanent residence and citizenship
While lawful permanent residence status grants you many privileges, it is important to note that it is distinct from citizenship. Citizenship grants you the right to vote, hold certain public offices, and obtain a US passport. However, lawful permanent residents can apply for naturalization after meeting specific residency requirements, such as residing continuously in the US for a certain number of years.
EB-5 Visa timeline
The timeline for the EB-5 process can vary depending on various factors, including US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times, or consular processing times if you’re applying from outside the US (consular processing times vary significantly across different countries), and the complexity of the investment project.
Generally, it can take between 18 to 36 months to receive the conditional Green Card and an additional 24 months to obtain the permanent document.
How much does an EB-5 Visa cost?
As well as the investment capital, there are several other expenses and fees that make up the total cost of participating in the EB-5 program, which include:
- Form I-526 (Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor): $3,675 (for the investor and any eligible dependents)
- Biometrics: $85 per person
- If applying from outside the US: You will need to pay an additional $345 visa application processing fee per person
- Medical exam: The cost of the medical examination varies depending on the country
- Form I-485 (if applying from within the US): $1,140
- Form DS-260 (if applying from outside the US): $325
- Biometrics: $85 per person (when filing either I-485 or DS-260)
- If you apply through a Regional Center, the center will charge an EB-5 Visa Administration Fee to manage the project. The price depends on the center and the project. The fee typically ranges from $50,000 to $70,000.
- After you complete the two years of the conditional Green Card:
- Removal of conditions application (Form I-829): $3,750 (for the investor and eligible dependents)
- Biometrics: $85 for each member of the family
Also, consider extra costs, such as translation of required documents, lawyers, and travel expenses.
As an EB-5 investor, you should consult with a qualified tax professional to understand your tax obligations and assist you with your tax planning. Generally, you will be subject to federal, state, and local taxes on your worldwide income. However, the US tax system offers various deductions and credits that can help optimize your tax situation.
EB-5 Visa document checklist
When preparing your EB-5 application, it is crucial to compile all the required documentation. The specific documents may vary depending on your circumstances, but generally, you will need:
- Passport and identification documents
- Evidence of the legal source of funds for the investment
- Business and financial documents related to the investment project
- Tax returns and financial statements
- Evidence of plans for the creation of jobs and economic impact (typically, this would entail creating a detailed plan for your business)
For Regional Center investors, the center will provide the documentation regarding the undertaking, the job creation methodology, and the project itself. You will need to submit the documents that demonstrate the legality of the source of funds, such as:
- Income tax returns filed, anywhere in the world, relating to the last five years
- Overseas business registration documents
- Any documents identifying the sources of capital
- Certified copies of all civil and criminal actions or other legal actions in the last 15 years
- Any other documents to assist UCSIS in determining the relationship between the investor and the equity of the investment
What can I do if my visa is denied?
Most EB-5 investors attain a successful outcome, with themselves and their family members receiving Green Cards, but some applications are denied. If you see “case was denied” as your USCIS status online, you will receive a denial notice explaining why. The most common reasons for an EB-5 denial are:
- Providing inaccurate or conflicting information
- Failing to furnish crucial documents and evidence
- Lacking the necessary investment funds or failing to invest the required amount
- Using funds from illegal sources for investment
- Having a history of criminal offenses or prior violations of US visa regulations
Another consideration for visa applicants who want to secure Green Cards for their children is to file Form I-526 before they turn 21 as they will not be eligible for permanent residency under your EB-5 application if you fail to do so. If they get married before being granted permanent residence status, they will become ineligible for a Green Card. Though these issues are worth bearing in mind, they would only affect the Green Card application for that individual, not the whole family and they would lead to an EB-5 Visa denial.
If your EB-5 Visa application is denied, you can:
Make a motion to reopen: If your application was missing a crucial document or essential evidence, you have the option to file a motion to reopen the case. To pursue this course of action, the additional document or evidence must hold sufficient significance to justify a revision of the decision.
Make a motion to reconsider: If you think that the determination is incorrect, you can initiate a motion to reconsider. This can be complex, so your best course of action would be to seek counsel and assistance from an immigration attorney with an expert understanding of US immigration law.
Appeal to USCSIS: If you believe the rejection was made in error, you can appeal to the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office and provide them with evidence to support your claim.
Other US Visa Options
Compared to other US visas, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program offers distinct advantages. Unlike non-immigrant visas, such as the L-1, O-1, B-1, H-1B or E-2 Visas, the EB-5 program provides a direct path to permanent residency and eventually citizenship.
Additionally, the EB-5 program does not require a sponsor or employer, providing you with greater independence and flexibility. However, if you feel that the EB-5 Visa, is not suitable for you, you might want to consider the E-2 Visa, which enables citizens of treaty countries to live and work in the US if they make a “substantial investment” into a bona fide enterprise. Typically, this involves investing around $100,000.
The other visas available to foreign nationals to live and work in the United States are talent visas, including the L-1 and O-1, which do not require you to make an invest but do have requirements based on your ability as well as the importance of your work.
Why work with Global Citizen Solutions for your EB-5 Visa application?
If you think the EB-5 Visa may be the right option for you, or if you’d like to know more about other US visa options, don’t hesitate to contact us and book a complimentary 30-minute call with one of our experts.
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. With offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil, our multilingual team guides 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. We have a team of immigration lawyers, and immigration advisers specialized in US immigration.
- Our team has never had a case rejected. Our 100 percent approval rate sets us apart from our competitors and guarantees that you can expect a successful application.
- Our transparent pricing covers all the processes from opening your bank account, document certification, and legal due diligence to investment and submission. As there is one fee for the entire process, you can be confident that you will not face any hidden costs later.
- All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server. You can be safe knowing that your personal data is treated with the utmost security.
- Global Citizen Solutions provides an all-encompassing solution. Our support can continue even after you receive your passport. We offer additional services such as company incorporation, Trusts, and Foundations formation.
- The BeGlobal Onboarding System® allows you to access the status of your application every step of the way, something that sets us apart from our competitors.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an EB-5 Visa (USA Golden Visa) and who qualifies for it?
The EB-5 immigrant visa, also known as the USA Golden Visa, is offered under an immigrant investor program that allows foreign nationals aged over 18 to obtain a US Green Card by making a qualifying investment in new commercial enterprises and creating jobs in the United States.
Foreign investors who apply to the EB-5 immigrant investor program don’t have to prove their net worth, but they must make a significant capital investment in the US, contributing to the economic development of the country.
The immigration process takes a few years, but becoming a Green Card holder can be a pathway to US citizenship.
Is my family eligible for the EB-5 Visa program?
Yes, immediate family members, meaning an investor’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can be included in an EB-5 application and obtain derivative benefits.
What are EB-5 Regional Centers?
The 1993 Appropriations Act amended the EB-5 program to create the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, which allowed foreign nationals to invest in an economic unit called a Regional Center.
EB-5 Regional Centers are entities designated by the USCIS, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, to promote economic growth through investment projects.
Investing through one of them allows you to count indirect job creation (rather than direct job creation) toward the program’s job creation requirement.
How long is the EB-5 Visa application process?
The EB-5 immigrant visa application process can take several years, from the initial filing to becoming a permanent Green Card holder.
The exact timeline and wait times can vary based on individual circumstances and external factors.
How many visas are set aside for EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program applicants?
Congress has set aside an annual quota of 10,000 immigrant visas for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program.
From this total, 20 percent is designated for investors in rural areas, 10 percent for investors in high-unemployment areas, and 2 percent for infrastructure projects.
Annually, the program accounts for less than 1 percent of the visas issued by the United States.
What is a Targeted Employment Area?
A Targeted Employment Area (TEA) is a designated geographic area with a high unemployment rate, or an area that is located in a rural region. As the US would like to stimulate economic activity through increased domestic capital investment in these areas, they consider EB-5 Visa applications with a lower investment amount.
Investing in a TEA allows you to qualify for the lower minimum investment threshold of $800,000.
What is the EB-5 Visa application processing time?
The processing time for an EB-5 immigrant visa application can vary. It is advisable to check the USCIS website or consult with an immigration lawyer (or immigration attorney) for the most up-to-date processing times.
The USCIS makes efforts to process petitions in a timely manner, but unforeseen circumstances or changes in the immigration landscape can impact processing times.
Can my children be enrolled in a school with conditional permanent resident status?
Yes, your children, with conditional permanent resident status, are able to attend school in the United States, including primary, secondary, and higher education institutions.
Can I work in the US on an EB-5 Visa?
Yes, you can work in the US while on an EB-5 Visa. There are no employment restrictions, meaning that you can seek full time employment in any field, and your job does not have to be in the same state as your EB-5 investment.
Are there personal wealth requirements for foreign investors applying for the EB-5 Visa?
There are no specific personal net worth requirements for a foreign investor applying for this visa.
Immigrant entrepreneurs are required to invest a minimum amount (of at least $800,000 and more than $1 million if you invested outside of Targeted Employment Areas – either a rural area or an area with high unemployment) in a qualifying commercial enterprise.
You must also prove a legal source of funds, including documents such as bank statements, details of real estate assets, and information about your investments.
Why are real estate projects popular under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program?
Projects involving real estate developers tend to be popular under the EB-5 program because they initially create jobs in the construction industry, and they also eventually create jobs in the service industry, including roles in hotels, restaurants, and resorts.
Should I work with an immigration attorney?
The EB-5 Visa application process is long and complex, requiring an investment of more than $1 million outside Targeted Employment Areas, or $800,000 inside TEAs, which must be at risk, and this is where an immigration lawyer can offer expertise and guidance.
Additionally, immigration attorneys keep up to date with all the latest news from USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security.
Working with an immigration lawyer will help guide you through the process, helping you through steps such as providing evidence of a legal source of funds, ensuring you have the complete and accurate supporting documents for your application, and choosing the investment option that best suits you and meets the EB-5 immigration requirements.
What is the minimum EB-5 investment amount?
The required minimum investment amount for an EB-5 Visa is $800,000 inside a TEA or $1,050,000 outside a TEA.
Is an investment of $500,000 sufficient for the EB-5 immigrant visa?
No, an investment of $500,000 is not sufficient for the EB-5 immigrant visa. The minimum required investment amount for the EB-5 Visa is currently $800,000 if the investment is made in a TEA and $1,050,000 if it’s made outside a TEA.
Is the EB-5 Visa risky?
EB-5 Visa investments carry inherent risks, including the potential for loss of investment funds (which can be over $1 million outside a TEA) if the project fails to meet its financial or job creation objectives.
What are the disadvantages of the EB-5 Visa?
The EB-5 Visa program requires a substantial investment, exposes investors to financial risks, involves a complex application process, and can take a lengthy time to process.
is the EB-5 program a USA Citizenship by investment or a residency by investment USA program?
The EB-5 program is a residency by investment program, not a citizenship by investment program. It allows foreign investors to obtain a Green Card, which is a legal permanent residency in the United States. After five years of lawful permanent residency, EB-5 Visa holders are eligible to apply for US citizenship.
Do EB-5 investors get their capital investment back?
EB-5 investors may receive their investment back, but it is not guaranteed. The likelihood of a return depends on the success of the project.