Despite some recent backlash against immigrants in America, the United States’ economic landscape has been transformed by immigrant investors in the last thirty years. A study by the National Foundation for American Policy in 2016 found that just over half of U.S. startups worth over $1 billion—including WhatsApp, Uber, and SpaceX—were founded by immigrants. These companies have created thousands of American jobs. With so much potential for success waiting in America, it can be very enticing for foreign entrepreneurs to make their home here. This is where the EB-5 visa comes in.
EB-5 Program Summary
The EB-5 Program was established by the Immigration Act of 1990 to boost the U.S. economy and job market with investment from foreign individuals. The program has been a success, with thousands of foreign investors legally migrating to the United States and creating hundreds of thousands of American jobs. However, some cases of fraud—including the recent high-profile misuse of investor funds in Vermont—have raised concerns, prompting some lawmakers to ask for the program’s discontinuation. Nevertheless, the EB-5 visa continues to be a popular option for immigrants and their families.
EB-5 Visa Requirements and Eligibility
To qualify for the EB-5 Program, a foreigner must invest at least $1 million in a U.S. commercial enterprise, or at least $500,000 in a business located in a rural or high-unemployment area (see Targeted Employment Area/TEA). Commercial enterprises can include local businesses, partnerships, business trusts, and corporations. It is important to note that qualifying enterprises must have been founded after 1990, or have been restructured or expanded significantly if they were established before then.
Another requirement for the EB-5 visa is that the foreigner’s investment must create ten or more full-time American jobs lasting at least two years. If investors contribute to an EB-5 project through a regional center, both direct and indirect job creation can count toward this total. On a related note, recent changes to the rules on capital infusion now allow for loans or borrowed funds to be injected into a business in addition to simple cash.