The EB-5 visa is often referred to as an investor’s visa because it is based upon your substantial investment of funds in the United States. You can also include your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age on your application.

Unfortunately, the program is set to expire in December 2017. However, Congress has continually extended the date of expiration and may do so again. Investors should also be aware of the country caps that may create extensive backlogs in application processing. The EB-5 program sets an annual limit of 10,000 visas and no single country can use more than 7% of available visas. The only country currently facing a backlog is China.

Applying through a Passive Investment

Two basic types of investments may qualify for the EB-5 program — a passive regional center investment and a direct investment. The former method allows you to commit as little as $500,000 to another company’s commercial venture within a government-approved regional center for just about five years. Your portion of money must generate at least 10 jobs for Americans for two years.

Through this passive investment, you can obtain a conditional green card in about 18 months (unless you are born in China). You can apply for a permanent green card upon meeting the requirements of the EB-5 program. At the end for five years, you can withdraw your investment capital.

This type of passive investment is only available in a government-approved regional center. These are areas that the government has identified as in need of economic growth and for which the EB-5 program helps fuel investment.

On the upside, the investment threshold is relatively low. On the downside, you are handing over control of your funds for others to manage.

Applying through a Direct Investment

You also have the option of investing directly in your own company. Typically, the direct investment must be a minimum of $1 million and generate at least 10 jobs for two years. As with the regional center passive investment described above, you can obtain your conditional green card within 18 months and can apply for your permanent green card after demonstrating you have maintained the $1 million investment and 10 jobs over the previous two years.

Choosing an Investment Method

Foreign nationals have invested more than $13 billion in more than 800 regional centers over the past decade through the EB-5 program. The program is therefore a boon to the economy in these areas and a great opportunity for investors.

However, the investments come with some risks. Before committing, you should conduct your due diligence on the project and on the regional center. Review the track record of approvals at a particular regional center and its relationship with the developer of the project you are considering. You are investing a large sum of money and should expect transparency and responsiveness from the regional center. Consult with an immigration attorney and financial experts to evaluate the regional center for past performance, job creation methodology and other matters. Not only might this improve the likelihood of a timely EB-5 approval, but the right advice can also protect your financial investment.

Explore our network of experienced immigration attorneys for counsel on your EB-5 investment.

*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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